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ISBN 81-7450-494-X

First Edition
February 2006 Phalguna 1927


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Cover and Layout
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Introduction: Exploring Possibilities
At the very outset, a critical analysis of the Indian School Education System reveals that it is largely
a monolithic system perpetuating a kind of education which has resulted in a set of practices
adopted for development of curriculum, syllabus and textbooks that is guided by the patterns
and requirements of the examination system, rather than by the needs determined by a mix of
criteria based on the childs learning requirement, aims of education and the socio-economic and
cultural contexts of learners. A marked feature of educational practices in school are a dull
routine, bored teachers and students and rote system of learning.
The position paper makes an effort to explore possibilities to provide for an enabling
and flexible framework for promoting increased choices made by the schools and teachers
possible, and a greater role for children and community in making those choices on a
large scale. In certain cases the States themselves have attempted to redefine curriculum and
develop textbooks and other teaching learning materials. In view of the above, it is important to
analyse whether the existing policy and curricular framework facilitate development of diverse
and appropriate curricular approaches for achieving desired aims and objectives of education.
Curriculum for Equality
The analysis of various policy documents clearly indicate that achieving equality through education
has been consistently and unequivocally voiced, over the years. However, the challenge of translating
the vision of equality into a curriculum framework has remained unanswered. The basic problem
that emerges has been conceptualising flexibility or diversity which is closely linked to the systems
inherent limitation and inability to define the role of the curriculum and its transaction. Related to
this are the associated problems in defining syllabus, standards and going beyond the core curriculum.
This reluctance of the system to allow for true plurality and flexibility in the curriculum, as well as
the restricted meaning of the term curriculum itself is most clearly evident in the report Learning
Without Burden (GOI 1993).
The past ambiguity in decentralising and diversifying curricula and textbooks reflects a perceived
need for appropriate mechanisms to ensure that quality conforms with common standards of
attainment as well as to a broad national democratic vision. With a view to promoting
decentralised curriculum development it is suggested that appropriate regulatory
mechanisms be created by establishing an independent body at the State level with a
federal national structure, to approve different curricular packages, which include
textbooks, teacher training and recruitment processes, assessment and examinations, etc.
The national structure may be answerable to the CABE, and should produce professionally

developed criteria and guidelines, conduct documentation and review, and ensure
appropriate consultation and sharing among the State bodies. It is also recommended
that the regulatory mechanism must be professionally worked out to carefully avoid the
attendant distortions and problems that may arise out of bureaucratic and political
pressures, vested interests or even corrupt practices, within bodies established to approve
the curricular packages1.
Mapping, Conceptual, Field Notion of Curriculum Syllabus and Textbooks
The existing ground realities and curricular documents reveal that all the NCFs emphasise the
concerns and issues but do not make a very clear connection between the concerns, aims and
curricular contents. The pedagogy and the view on knowledge also remain some what hazily
defined. The rational for almost all prescriptions is left un-stated. To address this, in this section
the notions of curriculum, syllabus and textbooks have been examined and deliberated upon on
the basis that the curriculum is a plan of facilitating learning for the child. This plan starts from
where the child is, enumerates all the aspects and dimensions of learning that the considered
necessary, gives reasons why such and such learning is considered necessary, and what educational
aims it would serve. This plan also defines stage specific objectives, what content to teach and
how to organise it. It also recommends general principles of teaching methods and evaluation,
and criteria for good teaching learning material.
Justifications of the basis for making curriculum choices are very important. The key
to understand the question of curriculum choice is to understand the relationship between
the curriculum and the aims of education. Therefore, the curriculum is viewed more as a
conceptual structure for decision making rather then details of what is to be done in the
The structure demands workable principles and criteria in most of the areas such as
selection and organisation of content ways of interacting with children and classroom
organisation, type of teaching-learning material etc. What is perceived to be important is what
forms the basis for the choices made in syllabus, pedagogical decisions, textbooks etc. It is also
suggested that a set of foundational assumptions a curriculum framework uses needs to be
internally consistent, as clearly articulated as possible, and acceptable to all stakeholders.
Finally, operational definitions are also been placed for consideration to facilitate the process
of curriculum development
Curriculum Framework: A plan that interprets educational aims vis-a-vis both individual and
society, to arrive at an understanding of the kinds of learning experiences school must provide to
Curriculum: Curriculum is, perhaps, best thought of as that set of planned activities which are
designed to implement a particular educational aim- set of such aims - in terms of the content of

One member of the Focus Group has a dissenting view of this issue. She did not think that such a body should be created.

what is to be taught and the knowledge, skills and attitudes which are to be deliberately fostered,
together with statements of criteria for selection of content, and choices in methods, materials
and evaluation. In reference to the framework above it would mean the curriculum core and
syllabus put together.
Syllabus: refers to the content of what is to be taught and the knowledge, skills and attitudes
which are to be deliberately fostered; together with stage specific objectives.
Groups Essential Position
The overall approach advocated should be to provide a curriculum framework that :
facilitates schools and teachers make decisions about choice of content, pedagogy, teaching
learning material, evaluation, etc. at school level; in other words, a national curriculum framework
for increased autonomy of the school
provides help to the teacher in becoming reflective practitioner who learns from her own
emphasises learning with understanding and learning to learn, and helps children develop
their own understanding based on their lived experiences; and;
General aims of education
It is proposed that within this framework, the articulation of aims needs to serve two
major purposes. Firstly, reflect collective socio-political aspirations of the whole society
and second, serves a significant pedagogical purpose of provide direction to the teacher
in choice of content and methods of education.. Aims are stated in two parts only as principles
and no elaborate justifications and/or explanations are provided.
A. Values and Ideals: education should promote in society, as well as help the learner develop
a rational commitment to:
Equality of status and opportunity,
Freedom of thought, expression, beliefs, faith and worship; as a value in life
Autonomy of mind as independence of thinking, based on reason,
Autonomy of action freedom to chose, ability and freedom to decide and ability and
freedom to act,
Care and respect for others going beyond respecting their freedom and autonomy, concern
about well being and sensitivity to all members of society,
Justice: social, economic and political.
B. Capabilities of individual human beings
Knowledge base sufficiently broad knowledge base encompassing all crucial areas of
socio-political life, and all basic ways of investigation and validation of knowledge


Sensitivity to others Sensitivity to others well beings and feelings coupled with knowledge
should form basis of rational commitment to values. Others should include all life forms.
Rational/critical attitude: Critical rationality is the only way to autonomy of thought and
Learning to learn the future needs of development of knowledge, reason, sensitivity and
skills can not be determined in advance. Therefore, ability to learn as new needs arise in new
situations is necessary to function autonomously in a democratic society.
Work and ability to participate in economic processes choices in life and ability to participate
in the democratic processes depends on ability to contribute to the society in its various
Aesthetic appreciation/creation appreciation of beauty and art forms is an integral part of
human life.

Stage wise objectives

The stage wise objectives need to be arrived at by keeping in mind the general aims of education,
the developmental stages of children, nature of the knowledge in general and curricular subject
areas in particular, and the childs socio-political contexts. Further the objectives also have to be
specific enough to be used as guidelines for content selection and organisation. It is proposed
that articulation of curricular objectives should also take cue from the statement of aims.
Formulation of curricular objectives for all but the last stage; can be done at the state and district
level and each school can reorganise them as per the need of their children and teachers.
Principles of content selection and organisation
Often demand for introducing new subjects in curriculum is voiced to emphasise certain concerns. It
is thus suggested that selection and organisation of curricular knowledge should be considered
from at least four different perspectives, those of: aims of education, epistemological perspective,
childs learning and mental developmental, and the childs context.
Teaching Learning Methods and Classroom Practices
A number of basic principles have been outlined in order to guide the choice of classroom
Understanding that children construct their own knowledge
Importance of Experiences in Learning
Active Engagement of learners is important for construction of knowledge
Variety of situations and multiplicity of methods important for creating diverse
The socio-economic context and identity of the learner


An enabling Teacher Child relationship

The role of and space for parents and community

Teaching Learning Material and Textbooks

The present day classroom practices are, in almost all schools of the country, totally dominated by
the textbooks. As a result it has acquired an aura and a standard format. What is needed is not
a single textbook but a package of teaching learning material that could be used to engage
the child in active learning. The textbook thus becomes a part of this package and not
the only teaching learning material. Therefore, a large number of packages should be
developed at state and district levels with adequate provision for cluster and school level
modifications and supplementary materials. The availability of a number of alternative
TLM packages of all approved quality to the certainly increased choice of the teachers.
Evaluation in education is always associated with objectives and implementation. By itself it is a
process that determines the course of action and recommends changes for the betterment of the
individual, society, nation and mankind. If we view education as preparation for meaningful life,
then the process of evaluation presently been followed is limited in that it measures and assesses
a very limited range of faculties of mind, is highly inadequate and lacks in giving a true picture of
an individuals abilities or progress towards the aims of education.
Revamping the examination system is an important step of any meaningful
educational change. In addition, making the model of continuous comprehensive
evaluation effective necessarily calls for collective understanding among all concerned child, teacher, parent, institutions of higher education and employer about what is being

To improve the present system, the following is suggested

Strive for excellence in all aspects of the learning, especially in the writing of materials,
correction of work, monitoring student progress, and responding to enquiries by the

Opportunity for revision and improvement of performance should consistently be

available without exams and evaluation being used as a threat to study. Deduction
of marks cannot be an alternative to motivating learners.

The learning experience itself must be evaluated, and not only its outcomes. Learners
are happy to comment on the totality of their experience, and this information can be
used to modify the earning system as a whole. The learner must be able to assess her
learning experiences, individually and as a part of a group.



Shri Rohit Dhankar (Chairperson)


Dr. Gayatri Devi Dutt


Digantar, Todi Ramzanipura

Regional Institute of English South India

Khonagorian Road
P.O. Jagatpura

Jnanabharthi Campus

Jaipur 302 025

Bangalore 560 056


Prof. Sandeep Ponnala
Dr. Kamala Menon

Dean, Faculty of Education

Osmania University

Mirambika Free Progress School

12-13-677-12, Kimtee Colony

Sri Aurobindo Marg

New Delhi 110 016

Street No.1, Lane No.1

Tarnaka, Secunderabad 500 017
Andhra Pradesh

Prof. Anita Rampal

Maulana Azad Centre for Elementary
and Social Education

Dr. Vipralhou Kesiezie


Central Institute of Education

State Council of Educational Research

Delhi University

and Training

Delhi 110 007

Kohima 797 001


Prof. Rajendra Bhatia


Dr. Janaki Rajan

Statistics and Mathematics Unit

Indian Statistical Institute

SCERT, Varuna Marg

7- Shaheed Jeet Singh Marg

Defence Colony

New Delhi 110 016

New Delhi 110 024

Mrs. Jaishree Acharya

Shri Prakash Burte

D4-1, MS Flats, Sector 13

Plot No. 5, Maitra

R.K. Puram

Dr. Antrolikar Nagar No. 3

New Delhi 110 022

Behind Kinara Hotel

Hotgi Road,

Dr. Jyotsna Jha

Solapur 413 003

74- Vijaya Laxmi Apartments


98, Indira Prastha Extension

Delhi -110 092

Dr. Sandhya Pranjpe (Member Secretary )

Department of Elementary Education

Mrs. Priyadarshini Kachhwaha

NCERT, Sri Aurobindo Marg

Vice Principal
Bharatiya Vidyabhawans Vidyashram School

New Delhi 110 016

Opposite OTS, K.M. Munshi Marg

Bajaj Nagar, Jaipur

Executive Summary


Members of National Focus Group on Curriculum, Syllabus and Textbooks





2.1 A Curriculum for Equality?

2.2 Contested Conceptions of Uniformity and Flexibility


2.3 Limited Notions of the Curriculum and Beyond the Core Curriculum ...5
2.4 The Role of the Textbook and National Standards


2.5 Supporting Decentralised Curriculum Development





3.1 The Existing Scenario ...9

3.2 A Conceptual Framework and Operational Definitions
3.3 Detailing for Implementation




4.1 The Approach ...19
4.2 Position on Elements of Curriculum



The General Aims of Education ...20


Stage-wise General Objectives of Education

Principles of Content Selection and Organisation ...24


Teaching-learning Methods and Classroom Practices


Teaching-learning Material and Textbooks...37







I have decided to end my life because the pressure of exams is
getting to me. I cant take it any more, wrote Sudhanshu in
his suicide note on March 4, 2005. The education that
should give hope, teach the worth of life, develop
capabilities to shape it, is often taking life and enabling
very few. The majority of even those who pass exams
with flying colours are capable only of seeing life as a
deadly competitive race in which they have to win to
survive. The principal, to whose school the unfortunate
child belonged, seems to be utterly bewildered. We
have conducted several workshops involving students on the need
to combat stress. One just doesnt know what goes on in the
minds of students these days, she says. She does not realise
that both the cause of the malaise as well as the remedy
will have to be sought at a different plane. One has to
re-examine the very ideas and ideals that are striving to
take over the society and are increasingly becoming
dominant in education, and one has to combat them
not through the trendy workshops but through creating
a more enabling vision of school and the process of
Children are being mercilessly overschooled in this
misdirected educational system. That is one alarming
aspect of Indian school education today. The other
equally alarming aspect is millions of children grow up
without entering a school, and many of those who enter
drop out of unconcerned schools without learning
A very brief survey of the present-day classrooms
would be enough to convince a keen observer that the
most marked features of most of our educational
practices in schools are a dull routine, bored teachers
and students, and rote learning. A perusal of the present
practices followed for the development and use of
curriculum, syllabi, and textbooks does not provide a
very encouraging picture in terms of either eliminating

this gloom in the classroom or pursuing the higher goals

of education in a more meaningful manner. It is largely
a monolithic system, perpetuating a kind of education
that aims at producing standardised products that can
pass certain examinations, rather than thinking,
sensitive, capable, and responsible people.
Nevertheless, this gloom in the classroom is not
unchallenged. There are a number of examples, from
both the government and the non-government sectors,
where efforts have been made to develop innovative
curricular approaches leading to encouraging results in
terms of both classroom practices and childrens
learning. These experiences provide examples of
exploring possibilities, teachers who are more
autonomous, children who participate meaningfully in
the process of education, cheerful classes, and increased
learning. This position paper makes an effort to provide
a framework to explore possibilities of increased
choices for the schools and teachers, and a greater role
for children and community in making those choices,
on a large scale.
One of the most important features of the present
set of practices adopted for development of
curriculum, syllabi, and textbooks is that it is guided by
the patterns and requirements of the examination
system, rather than by a mix of criteria based on the
childs learning requirements, aims of education, and
the socio-economic and cultural contexts of learners.
In most cases, the term curriculum is used to mean
very different things by different users and even by the
same user in different contexts. It is usually referred to
as the scheme of studies, where different subjects are
seen in isolation and the subject-knowledge is embodied
in the respective textbooks, to be memorised by all
children. The socio-political, geographical, and cultural
diversities that exist across different areas are usually
ignored and the same textbook is viewed solely as

representing the entire gamut of curricular needs and
is used in the entire state. Despite several policy

interesting is that the nature of structures that exist

guides the nature of the curricular approach rather than

documents, curricular frameworks, and programmatic

approaches mentioning the need for further

the curricular approach determining the nature of

structures required.

decentralisation of curricular material development, at

least up to the district level, there has rarely been any

Barring a few states, elementary or the first seven

or eight years of education was kept outside the purview

effort to facilitate this. The changes that have come

over the years are either largely superficial in nature,

of state education boards in most states. The State

Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT;

leading to some tinkering here and there, or iterative

where one or two new subjects/topics have been

known by a different name in some states), which came

into existence around the same time as the boards,

introduced because of one or more kinds of pressures,

from central organisations, the judiciary, or some other

mainly by merging some of the existing teacher training

institutions, are usually responsible for developing the

pressure group.
The frame for the present practices followed for

syllabi and textbooks at the elementary level. The nature

and functioning of the SCERTs also varies in certain

the development of curriculum, syllabi, and textbooks

is largely guided by the national policies adopted since

respects. The National Council of Educational

Research and Training (NCERT), the apex body at the

early 1970s. Starting from the early seventies, almost

all states have adopted the 10+2 pattern of school

national level, is expected to guide the states by

providing a national framework for curriculum

education structure with a few exceptions where +2 or

the senior secondary stage still continues to be partially

development and by building capacities at the state level

both at the elementary and secondary level.

managed by college education and governed by the

university system. The adoption of 10+2 structure of

For a variety of reasons, the space for

experimentation has been relatively greater, and hence

education was promoted to mitigate the marked

differences in the schemes of studies and bring some

the presence of creative experiences has also been

higher at the elementary level. In certain cases, the states

sort of harmony in the curriculum, syllabi, and

examination patterns. The states were also encouraged

themselves have attempted to redefine curriculum and

accordingly develop textbooks and other materials. For

to have autonomous examination boards to determine

the curricula and examination pattern at both secondary

instance, Kerala adopted a new curricular approach,

the process of developing textbooks, and teacher

and senior secondary levels. Although the role and

functions of different boards, and the ways in which

support materials for the primary stage under the

District Primary Education Project (DPEP). The

they undertake similar functions, vary greatly, they are

viewed as mere examination conducting bodies and

DPEP did encourage states to undertake such exercises

but the nature, intensity, and depth of such initiatives

whose main responsibility is certification. As such, the

nature and pattern of examination becomes the binding

varied from one state to the other. Much before the

DPEP was implemented in selected districts and states,

direction for the curricular approaches rather than this

being the other way round. Some kinds of curriculum

Eklavya, a voluntary organisation in Madhya Pradesh,

developed a different approach for primary education,

approval bodies also exist in some states. What is

known as Prathmik Shiksha Karyakram (Prashika). This

was developed based on real experiences of teaching
in government primary schools in rural areas. This
experience later became an important reference point
for those exploring new possibilities and the basis for
a curricular package called Seekhna Sikhana in Madhya
Pradesh. Digantar, a small NGO in Rajasthan running
a few schools for children coming from lower socioeconomic strata in the outskirts of Jaipur, has been
following a different curricular approach for more than
two decades. The organisation has been actively sharing
its conceptions and experiences with other government
and non-government agencies. The curricular design
and the pedagogy of the Alternative Schooling system
built in Madhya Pradesh under the DPEP was based
on Digantars philosophy and approach. Several districts
in Karnataka have adopted a textbook-free approach
of teaching where the progression is guided and
determined by a series of activities. This approach has
been guided by the experiences of the Rishi Valley, an
NGO working in Andhra Pradesh.
The very presence of these examples suggests the
need for going into the reasons as to why was the
prevalent practice considered inadequate and/or
unsuitable. It is important to analyse whether the
existing policy and curricular frameworks provide
unambiguous aims and facilitate development of
flexible and appropriate curricular approaches for
achieving those aims. What are and what ought to be
the conceptions of curriculum, syllabi, and textbooks
if seen from the multiple lenses of the democratic
polity, human philosophy, and theories of learning?
How best can the principles of the various aspects of
curriculum be defined so as to facilitate an education
process which is stimulating and leads to development
of rational, responsible, and caring human beings
working towards a society which values equality, justice,
democracy, and plurality? This position paper makes

an attempt in this direction through exploring

possibilities of providing greater space for choices to
the teachers and students, as one recent graduate of
school education in a conversation with one of the
group members remarked the children should be allowed
to think and the teachers should be allowed to teach as they
consider fit.

2.1 A Curriculum for Equality?
The commitment towards achieving equality through
education has consistently and unequivocally been
voiced through the policy documents of independent
India, including the reports of the two Commissions
related to school education and the National Policy on
Education 1986 with its review in 1992. The Secondary
Education Commission Report (1952) had envisaged
schools to play a crucial role in developing democratic
citizenship, emphasising that democracy is based on
faith and in the dignity and worth of every single
individual, where the innate worthfulness cannot
be eclipsed either by economic or racial or social
consideration (p. 20). As the first commission on
school education of an independent country carved
out of a traumatic partition, it sought schools that
would lay the foundation for patriotism and
cooperation, based on an openness of mind and
largeness of heart, and not through the dragooning
of different beliefs, ideas, tastes and interests into
uniformity, which may possibly make for efficiency in
a narrow and inferior sense, but inevitably impoverish
life and curb the free expression of the human spirit.
It called for educational opportunities that would
translate into practice a passion for social justice inspired
by the faith that social purposes are worth striving for, that life
in a democratic set up is not playing for ones own hand but calls
for a strenuous endeavour to equalise opportunities for all, and an
unremitting fight for justice for the under-privileged. (p. 21)

The subsequent Education Commission (GOI,
1966) had focused on a socialist democratic vision of

irrespective of caste, creed, location or sex, have access

to education of comparable quality (Section 3.2). The

national development, where equality of education is

deliberately used to develop more and more potential

commitment to provide education that promotes

equality through removal of disparities was again

talent. Warning that History shows numerous

instances where small social groups have used education

expressed by the Review of the NPE in the Report of

the Ramamurthy Committee (1992): To promote

as a prerogative of their rule and as a tool for

maintaining their hegemony (Section 1.16), it had

equality, it will be necessary to provide for equal

opportunity to all not only in access, but also in the

strongly recommended the Common School System

(Section 1.36). It declared that: It is the responsibility

conditions for success. Besides, awareness of the

inherent equality of all will be created through the core

of the education system to bring different social classes

and groups together and thus promote the emergence

curriculum. The purpose is to remove prejudices and

complexes transmitted through the social environment

of an egalitarian and integrated society. But at present,

instead of doing so, education is itself tending to

and the accident of birth (section 3.6). It

recommended that government schools be

increase social segregation and to perpetuate and widen

class distinctions. The position is thus undemocratic

transformed through quality improvement into genuine

neighbourhood schools and that private schools should also

and inconsistent with the ideal of an egalitarian society.

The children of the masses are compelled to receive

be made freely accessible. The new Policy will lay special

emphasis on the removal of disparities and on

sub-standard education while the economically

privileged parents are able to buy good education for

equalising educational opportunity by attending to the

specific needs of those who have been denied equality

their children. This is bad not only for the children of

the poor but also for children from the rich and

so far (section 4.1). Moreover, despite reservations

about the iniquitous programme of a few well-endowed

privileged groups. It gives them a short-term advantage

in so far as it enables them to perpetuate and consolidate

Navodaya Vidyalayas set up by the government, the

policy could not change the course of things to come.

their position. By segregating their children, they

prevent them from sharing the life and experiences of

As it stands today, the system of public education

has been rendered more unequal and differentiated than

the children of the poor and coming into contact with

the realities of life. In addition to weakening social

ever before, with increasing numbers of poor-quality

and low-cost centres and alternative schools being

cohesion, they also render the education of their own

children anaemic and incomplete (Section 1.36, 1.37).

established for the poor. Moreover, the vocational

stream remains the least sought after, being perceived

It proposed the neighbourhood school to compel

the rich, privileged and powerful classes to take an

as one meant for the less able, while poor families

despair that schools alienate their children from their

interest in the system of public education and thereby

bring about its early improvement (Section 10.19).

own vocations and livelihoods. This has happened

despite the Ramamurthy Committee (1992)

This proposal was subsequently upheld by the

National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986, which

recommendations to link work with school through a

common curricular stream having both vocational and

recommended that up to a given level, all students,

non-vocational components, and different options with

varying proportions of the two components. It had
stated that vocationalisation of school education must be seen

statements of objectives were made, which provided

no indication of how a curriculum was to be designed

in the context of equity and social justice, contrary to the present

system where the vocational stream is clearly viewed as the one

to address the vision of education for children from

diverse cultural and social backgrounds, while the

meant for the less able and the less fortunate (Section 2.2.6).

document moved directly to the teaching and content

of subject areas.

2.2 Contested Conceptions of Uniformity and


That children learn through active engagement with

their experiences, and that their learning and

The challenge of translating the vision of equality into

a curricular framework has remained unanswered, and

development is shaped by their cultural capital,

including how their societies have looked at the social

as reflected in the series of Curriculum Framework

documents (NCERT 1975, 1988, 2000) that followed,

and physical world around them, was never

acknowledged. Also, the concern articulated by policy

these wishful statements were not always matched with

consonant conceptions of what formed a democratic

documents that the existing format of schooling,

including the selection of the syllabus, the teaching

and equalising curriculum. The first doubts and

tensions appeared in the 1975 document on the

approaches, and the examinations, was alienating most

children and consistently reinforcing inequality was

Curriculum for the Ten-year School, where it was stated

that For a vast country like ours with its diversity of

never addressed. The 1975 document continued to

speak of the diverse requirements of children only in

languages, social customs, manners, mores and uneven

economic development, the needs and demands of

terms of the special needs of the talented, the

backward, and those coming from non-formal

individuals and society will have differential pulls on

the school curriculum, varying from one region to the

channels. In fact, its section on The Core Curriculum

and Beyond delineates how schools would need to go

other. For the sake of uniformity of standards and of

national identity, therefore it is necessary to develop a

beyond the core curriculum to provide additional

inputs for those who may offer to study advanced

common curriculum within a broad framework of

acceptable principles and values (Section 2.1).

units; similarly, students coming from the less

fortunate schools or from non-formal education may

This central concern for what was then

ambiguously called uniformity of standards and

also need remedial units or bridging units which schools

would have to provide (section 2.15).

national identity served as a justification for the

centralising tendency in curriculum construction. While

2.3 Limited Notions of the Curriculum and

the 1975 Curricular Framework confessed that the task

of effecting internal transformation of education to

Beyond the Core Curriculum

The basic problem in conceptualising flexibility or

address the life, needs, and aspirations of the nation

was becoming increasingly difficult under the mounting

diversity was closely tied to the systems inherent

limitation and inability to define the role of the

pressure of growing numbers of children, and owing

to rigid postures and orthodox attitudes, it could not

curriculum in the first place. What was understood to

be the curriculum? It seemed to inevitably imply a

radically transcend these limitations. Some broad

fixed core content, which was variously called the

syllabus and also the standards, and was in the form
of a list of topics derived from the subjects to be taught,
so that going beyond the core meant only providing
either enrichment for the talented or remedial inputs
for the backward.
This limited view of curriculum was again
manifested in the 1988 document National Curriculum
for Elementary and Secondary Education: A
Framework, which tried to define the core through
what were called the Minimum Levels of Learning
(MLL) (Section 2.2). There were several problems with
this formulation and we shall not dwell on these here;
it may suffice here to point out that the levels were
attempted to be defined in behavioural terms, and were
dictated by the belief that differences lie in terms of
hierarchical levels rather than in equally valid but
different ways of learning. We find in Section 2.2 the
statement that:

The process of curriculum framing and preparation of

schools and teachers to cater to the needs of slow and

textbooks be decentralised so as to increase teachers

involvement in these tasks. Decentralisation should
mean greater autonomy, within state-level apparatus,
to district level boards or other relevant authority, and
to heads of schools and classroom teachers to develop
curricular materials on their own, best suited to needs
of local environment. All the schools (must) be
encouraged to innovate in all aspects of curriculum,
including choice of textbooks and other materials
(Recommendation No. 2a). Voluntary organisations
with a specific commitment to pedagogical innovations
within the formal or non-formal system (must) be
provided greater freedom and support in development
of curriculum, textbooks and teacher training
(Recommendation No. 2b).
The schools affiliated to CBSE in the states other
than Delhi enjoy the prestige of being elite schools.
The CBSE curriculum becomes a trend-setter for the
State Boards leading to heavier curriculum for majority
of children, Therefore the Committee recommends
that jurisdiction of CBSE be restricted to Kendriya
Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas and all other
schools be affiliated to the respective State Boards
(Recommendation No. 4).

fast learners studying in the same class/grade in a

The Ministry subsequently set up its own Group,

school. However, the scope for flexibility in

chaired by Y.N. Chaturvedi and constituted mainly of

bureaucrats, to give views on the feasibility of

A high degree of flexibility and local initiatives are

envisaged in designing and introducing remedial and
enrichment programmes and materials not only by the
State educational authorities but also by the individual

methodolog y and approach to transaction of

curriculum is not expected to be used for introducing
differential courses or similar measures which would
accentuate disparities in standards of education in
different parts of the country.

This reluctance of the system to allow for true

plurality and flexibility in the curriculum, as well as the
restricted meaning of the term curriculum itself, was
most clearly evident when the National Advisory
Committee presented its report Learning Without
Burden (GOI, 1993). Some of the recommendations
of the Committee were as follows:

implementing the recommendations of the Advisory

Committee. This Group countered most of the radical
recommendations of the Committee, giving comments
that reflected both its failure to appreciate the import
of the Report and its own orthodoxy in educational
matters. In fact, wherever the Committee speaks of
the curriculum, the Group responds using the word
syllabus, showing that it considers these terms to be
identical. It also completely misses the point about the
need for decentralisation in curriculum development,
through local participation and ownership, and in which

evaluation and certification constitute an important and
often the most crucial component. It concedes at best
to different curricula for different socio-cultural
geographical zones but that too developed centrally
by the national/state agencies.
For instance, the Groups responses to the
Recommendations 2 and 4 quoted above state that:
The Group feels that while the size of committees at
national or state level cannot be increased beyond a
limit, a meaningful way of improving teachers
participation would be for either the NCERT/CBSE/
Sate Boards/SCERTs to prepare the draft syllabus and
finalise it after subjecting it to regional or district level
consideration by a large body of teachers or, in the
alternative, to get multiple syllabi developed at regional
and district levels on the basis of which the final syllabi
could be prepared at the state/national level. The
Group however, does not recommend decentralisation
in the preparation of syllabi or textbooks at the district
or school level because it will be difficult to ensure
adequate projection of national identity and of composite culture
of India. Also in such a situation, the adherence to even minimum
standards in all parts of the country may become difficult (p.5,
emphasis added.).
The Group however, shares the concern of the Yashpal
Committee that many textbooks presently tend to
project predominantly the urban middle class life style.
Therefore, the Group recommends that in states
which have distinct socio-cultural geographical zones,
different and parallel sets of textbooks with the same
learning objectives should be prepared and used The
textbook preparation agencies should undertake
systematic review of all textbooks to ensure that any
trivial matter which may have got included in the
textbooks is weeded out (p.6).
As for CBSE it relies heavily on the NCERT for
developing syllabi and preparing textbooks.Rightly
the NCERT keeps in view the existing standards in
the country, the capability of students, and standards
in developed countriesIf there is unnecessary

material in some of the NCERT books, it should be

eliminated. However, there is not adequate material on record
to substantiate that the CBSE syllabi or NCERT books per
se are overloaded. If affiliation to the CBSE is good for
Kendriya and Navodaya Vidyalayas it cannot be bad for other
schools (p.10).

2.4 The Role of the Textbook and

National Standards
The Secondary Education Commission (1952) had
pointed out that the then curriculum was narrow,
bookish and theoretical with an overloaded syllabus
and unsuitable textbooks. It had suggested that the
curriculum should not be divided into a number of
watertight subjects, but that all subjects should be interrelated and should include relevant and significant
content so that it could touch the lives of students. It
also recommended that a high powered committee be
set up in every State for selecting textbooks and for
laying down appropriate criteria, emphasising that No
single textbook should be prescribed for any subject
of study, but a reasonable number which satisfy the
standards laid down, should be recommended, leaving
the choice to the schools concerned (p 83).
The subsequent Education Commission (196466)
continued to highlight the poor quality of school
education and commented on the low quality of
textbooks, owing to the lack of research related to their
preparation and production, and the lack of interest
of top ranking scholars in this area. It called for the
definition of national standards and recommended
centralised textbook production to conform to those,
starting at the national level and also supporting
establishment of bodies at the State level. In hindsight,
we can see that the problematic role of the textbook
continuing from the colonial education system, which
has assumed a sacrosanct position in the school and
the classroom, marginalising the role of the curriculum

and the syllabus, was further strengthened from the
then expectation that the nationally produced textbook
would far more precisely indicate the national
The definition of these (national) standards as well as
the organisation of a programme for their practical
implementation will be greatly facilitated by the
production of textbooks at the national level. Such books
can indicate the expected standard of attainment far more
precisely than any curricula or syllabi; and their practical
use in schools is the surest method to raise standards
and make the teaching in schools in different parts of
the country fairly comparable. In a subject like science
and mathematics there is not much scope for local
variations and the adoption of common textbooks in
all parts of the country is not only feasible but also
desirable from several points of view History is
another difficult subject to teach, especially from the
point of view of social and national integration, and
authoritative well written books on the subject can be
of immense help to all teachers. At present there is hardly
any common book which all the students in India read and is
one of the reasons why our educational system contributes so
little to national integration (Section 9.19).

There are problems in the notion of common

textbooks across the country, in either science or history,
especially since now, forty years later, there is a more
nuanced understanding of child development and
pedagogy that shows that learning happens when the
content of curricula is contextualised in the childs
experiences and cultural knowledge, whether of plants,
animals, people, or processes. However, at that time the
recommendations seem to be guided more by the need
to attract the best national talent to contribute to the
improvement of school education. Indeed, the
Education Commission also saw this process of
producing national books as one that would help build
capacities and stimulate other centres into activity and
especially promote similar enterprise at the State levels
(Section 9.20). Even in areas where national books are

available, independent attempts by States will stimulate

each other and the Centre itself . For this it had
recommended a separate agency, preferably functioning
on an autonomous and commercial basis, in close liaison
with the Education Department (Section 9.21).
Moreover, its own dilemma in proposing
nationalisation of textbooks is apparent when it
attempts to somehow mitigate the problem of
uniformity and homogenisation and calls for a
multiplicity of textbooks:
No useful purpose it served by having only one
textbook in a subject for a given class this is almost
invariably the position under the existing programmes
of nationalisation. It should be an important objective
of policy to have at least three or four books in each
subject for each class and leave it open to the teachers
to choose the book best suited to the school. This is
necessary even if there were to be a common syllabus
for all schools. We have recommended, however, that
there should be more than one approved syllabus and
that each school should be permitted to adopt the
syllabus best suited to its own condition (Section 9.21).

2.5 Supporting Decentralised Curriculum

The past ambiguity in decentralising and diversifying
curricula and textbooks reflects a perceived need for
appropriate mechanisms to ensure quality, conformance
with common standards of attainment as well as to a
broad national democratic vision. It becomes necessary
to see how these concerns can be viewed and addressed
in the present context. At the present juncture in time, on
the one hand, several States have already initiated the
process of developing their own textbooks, and conduct
their own Board Examinations. In fact, the notions of
curriculum and syllabus effectively lie collapsed in the
textbook, which is taken to be the only indicator of what
needs to be covered for the examination. What is actually
learnt by children and how the curriculum helps shape
their development has thus got obscured.

This subversive role of the textbook has not only
distorted its academic purpose but also allowed it to
be used as a means of political and ideological
propaganda by the State. In addition, private schools
are increasingly opting for alternative textbooks by
private publishers in classes that are relatively free from
pressures of the Board Examination, and the market
is increasingly exercising its influence, looking for ways
to circumvent the control of the Board. The concerns
for ensuring quality, broad standards of performance
and avoiding subversion of democratic norms get even
more amplified in this scenario.
The present programme for universalisation of
elementary education, namely the Sarva Shiksha
Abhiyan, also calls for decentralisation of curriculum
development to be done at the district level, highlighting
the need to build capacities of District Institute of
Education and Training (DIETs) and other related
organisations. We endorse this need and recommend
that the NCERT and other national bodies must
consciously promote building of capacities in
decentralised curriculum development and textbook
production, in the States and at the district level. The
articulation of broad standards of performance could
be undertaken as part of the present National
Curricular Review.
It is also suggested that appropriate regulatory
mechanisms be created by establishing an independent
body at the State level with a federal national structure
to approve different curricular packages, which include
textbooks, teacher training and recruitment processes,
assessment and examinations, etc. The national
structure may be answerable to the Central Advisory
Board of Education (CABE), and should produce
professionally developed criteria and guidelines,

conduct documentation and review, and ensure

appropriate consultation and sharing among the State
bodies. It must also ensure that the process of regulation
is kept transparent and all reports are made public. The
State body must be constituted of persons with
professional experience in education and also from
NGOs and State Commissions on women, SC/ST, etc.
We envisage that this State body will review and
approve all curricular packages developed and used in
different districts, and share its reports and materials
at the National level. It must be ensured that this State
body and the national structure must itself not have
any conflict of interest and must not itself be involved
in the development of curricular packages, including
production of textbooks, conduct of examinations, etc.
In the light of this process, all textbooks, even those
produced by private publishers would be reviewed and
approved by the State bodies. Moreover, our group
strongly recommends that the regulatory mechanism
must be professionally worked out to carefully avoid
the attendant distortions and problems that may arise
out of bureaucratic and political pressures, vested
interests or even corrupt practices, within bodies
established to approve the curricular packages1.


3.1 The Existing Scenario
The notions of curriculum and syllabi as existing in
the three National Curricular Frameworks (NCFs) are
close to each other. The NCF 75 actually defines the
curriculum and syllabi. However, this notion of
curriculum and syllabi does not include aims of
education; it rather sees the aims as guiding the

One member of the group disagrees with the recommendation of setting up such a national body.

curriculum from outside. The other two documents
also do not take up the task of defining but largely
follow the same definition. All the NCFs emphasise
the concerns and issues but do not make a very clear
connection between the concerns, aims, and curricular
content. The pedagogy and the view on knowledge also
remain hazily defined. Thus, though the NCFs seem
to have some form of definition for curriculum and
syllabus, the relative importance of elements within the
form and their interconnections remain either
unexplored or even entirely neglected. The rationale
for almost all prescriptions is left unstated.
Most of the state level curricular documents are
poor imitations of the NCFs and the emphasis is mainly
on the scheme of studytime and weightage
allocationand syllabi. Most of them do not even see
the larger picture of curriculum. Educational writing
and discussion largely remains equivocal in the use of
these terms. Even the most of innovative programmes,
which have taken a much more flexible approach to
curriculum, do not seem to have seen the entire picture.
They often amplify their chosen aspect of education
The view taken on learning is often articulated in
national and state documents, and most fervently in
the NGO documents. The overall impression one gets
in the national discourse on education is that a theory
of learning, even if defined loosely and not very clearly,
is all that is needed to plan education in general and
curriculum in particular. There is hardly any mention
of a view taken on knowledge beyond what is
necessitated to articulate the chosen view of learning.


3.2 A Conceptual Framework and Operational

As mentioned above, the term curriculum is one of
the most ambiguous terms in present-day educational
discourse in our country. It may be used to denote a
mere subject-wise list of topics to be taught in a
particular class on the one hand, and something that
encompasses the total experience provided to the
children in as well as out of school2 on the other. There
can be umpteen positions between these two ends of
the spectrum and as many views of curriculum3. The
situation seems to be somewhat similar in many other
countries. Unfortunately, writes Christopher Winch,
discussion of what aught to be taught is sometimes
made opaque by an either too wide or too narrow
definition of what constitutes the curriculum. So, for
instance, we have heard it said by a Government
appointed Inspector of Education that the curriculum
is everything that goes on in school which would make
the colour the school walls are painted a question of
curriculum choice and bullying a part of curriculum
content (see also Whitfield 1971). Conversely a definition
such as a planned, sustained and regular learning, which
is taken seriously, which has a distinct and structured
content and which proceeds via some kind of stages of
learning (Wilson 1977) would make some activities which
children engage in at school but which, arguably, are not
taken seriously, e.g. woodwork, not part of the
curriculum. The key to understanding the question of
curriculum choice is to visualise the relationship between
the curriculum and the aims of education. The curriculum
is the plan for the implementation of educational aims.4

Primary Education Curriculum, Government of Kerala. (Emphasis added.)

Digantar, Activity Based Teaching in Kerala and its Achievements: A study of pedagogical interventions in DPEP, ,.2002.
Christopher Winch, Key Concepts in Philosophy of Education, Routlrdge, London, UK

In India, there is a tendency to take too wide a
definition of curriculum in much of recent literature.

4. How can we deter mine whether these

purposes are being attained? (Tyler, 1949, 1)

All the publications under DPEP, many innovative

NGOs, and recent discussions in curriculum seem to

In 1975, the Curriculum Committee that wrote The

curriculum for ten-year school: A framework defined

say too often that everything that happens in the school

is part of the curriculum. On the other hand, at practical

what it meant by the term curriculum: A curriculum

may be regarded as the sum total of all the deliberately

level, syllabus, construed as a list of objectives and

topics in a particular subject, is often referred to as

planned set of educational experiences provided to the

child by the school. As such it is concerned with

curriculum. These two tendencies may look

contradictory in the first glanceliterature claims

(i) the general objectives of education at a

particular stage or class

everything to be curriculum and the planned/

provisioned view covers an extremely narrow part of

(ii) subject-wise instructional objectives and


the school experiencebut the very declaration that

everything is curriculum is a challenge to planning.

(iii) courses of studies and time allocation

(iv) teachinglearning experiences

Therefore, what is considered essential is planned, and

rest of the broad vision of curriculum is left to

(v) instructional aids and materials

(vi) evaluation of learning outcomes and feedback

happening by chance.
In an attempt to construct a meaningful notion of

to pupils, teachers and parents.

This definition seems to engage with the four

curriculum, it is important to note that in spite of all

differences the main question that curriculum is

fundamental questions asked by Tyler, barring the fact

that it is reluctant to address the first one of them

concerned with is what sort of things we ought to

teach in our educational institutions. It is important

squarely. The definition, though talks of the general

objectives of education at a particular stage or class,

to note that the question is one concerning prescription

(what ought to be the case), and not merely of

leaves the general aims of education to guide the

curricular efforts from outside. It would be difficult to

description (what actually is the case). And this question

is the question of curriculum choice. [Winch] In the

imagine any curriculum in the absence of general

educational aims; therefore, one might speculate,

same vein, the four fundamental questions that form

the basis of Ralf Tylers classic book Basic principles of

perhaps the committee considered the issue of aims

more as a matter of policy than as a matter of

curriculum and instruction still provide a good guide to

move in this direction:

curriculum. Therefore, it sees curriculum as more or

less synonymous with syllabus (if one can use the

1. What educational purposes should the schools

seek to attain?

singular term syllabus for a set of all syllabi of school


2. What educational experiences can be provided

that are likely to attain these purposes?

There seems to be an ambiguity as to whether, as per

the definition, curriculum is concerned with the

3. How can these educational experiences be

effectively organised?

underlying principles to decide or with detailed

descriptions of what is listed in points (ii) to (vi). If it is

the detailed description that is intended, then the definition
is clearly that of syllabus. And if propagated as
curriculum, it would limit choices that should be made
by the schools and teachers keeping in view the profile of
their students. A curriculum, seen from a wider
perspective, is different from a course of study; it provides
a basis for a course of study rather than being itself a
course of study.
Another question that arises in connection to this
definition is that of justification. What are the
justifications for accepting stated curricular objectives,
content to be taught, methods to be adopted, and so
on? Justifications or basis for curricular choices are very
important. Almost all curricular choices admit an
alternative point of view; in fact, the very notion of a
choice implies picking up one alternative from several
available ones. A random picking up can hardly be called
a choice. It merits calling a choice only if there are
sharable grounds for the selection made. Thus,
curricular choices need to be justified on commonly
acceptable grounds.
Thus a fuller and usable definition of curriculum can
be: Curriculum is, perhaps, best thought of as that set of
planned activities which are designed to implement a particular
educational aim set of such aims in terms of the content of
what is to be taught and the knowledge, skills and attitudes
which are to be deliberately fostered (Winch) together with
statements of criteria for selection of content, and choices in
methods, materials and evaluation. (Stenhouse)
The six boxes shown here represent six broad and
slightly overlapping areas of choices, their usual names
are indicated but their content has not been suggested.
The bullets (*) shown in the boxes mean that something
has to be written there, these boxes are just a convenient
way to indicate groups of questions. If one takes
development of autonomy based on reason as an
example of a general aim of education, it can be written
next to one of the bullets in the area demarcated for

aims. Similarly, when all the questions are appropriately

answered, keeping in mind the linkages and consistency
between different answers, this structure would be an
example of a curriculum.
As understood here, a curriculum is neither a
document nor a sequence of experiences. It is a plan
of facilitating learning for the child. This plan starts
from where the child is, enumerates all the aspects and
dimensions of learning that are considered necessary,
gives reasons why such and such learning is considered
necessary, and what educational aims it would serve.
The plan also defines stage-specific objectives, what
content to teach, and how to organise it. It also
recommends general principles of teaching methods
and evaluation and criteria for good teachinglearning
material. Such a plan, of course, is almost always set in
a document or a set of documents and implemented
through organised experiences for children under
teachers guidance; but perhaps conceptually the plan
should remain in focus, while the document remains a
contingent reality and the course of experiences as
implementation of a plan.
What one needs to keep in mind is that all these
terms evolve historically and serve certain purposes in
a discourse. They are part of attempts to evolve better
conceptual tools to reflect on practice and gradually
refine it. Therefore, as it is possible to construct
appropriate and very useful concepts, it is also possible
to construct unhelpful concepts and definitions that
blur the discourse rather than enlightening it. One needs
to have no quarrel with any concept per se, but should
carefully consider its suitability and coherence with the
purpose, on the one hand, and acceptability in the
general discourse on education, on the other.
3.3 Detailing for Implementation
The curriculum, as defined here, is more of a
conceptual structure for decision making rather than

details of what is to be done in the classroom. The
structure suggested above requires workable principles
and criteria in most of the slots and not detailed
descriptions or lists. For example, it demands principles
on the basis of which content could be selected and
organised for students but does not require selected and
organised content that is to be taught. However, working
in a classroom most definitely requires selected and
organised content and detailed ways of interacting with
the children and classroom organisation. One needs actual
teaching learning material and not only the criteria on
which it could be developed or chosen, which means that
further detailing on the basis of this curriculum would be
needed to complete the picture.
On the basis of stage-specific objectives and
principles of content selection and organisation, a selection
of well-connected concepts, information, principles of
knowledge construction, validation criteria, skills, values,
attitudes, etc. could be made and formed into an organised
body of knowledge suitable for the particular stage for
which it is being planned. Thus, a syllabus for a particular
stage could be generated from a given/accepted curriculum.

It must be emphasised here that what is to be

included and what is not to be included in the syllabus
will also be informed by the methods of teaching that
are going to be used, or in other words, decisions on
methods of teaching would have to be made
simultaneously with the choice of content. But then,
there can also be occasions when it might seem to be
desirable that a particular topic should be taught (on
the basis of implication of objectives and/or principles
of content organisation) at a certain stage, and
subsequently one looks for selection of appropriate
ways of teaching it. If there is a situation where a topic
X is seen as desirable to be taught at stage Y, but there
are no appropriate methods available to introduce it to
that age group of children, then perhaps the better
course of action would be to wait for development of
appropriate methods rather than insisting on
introducing the topic.
In a similar manner, actual teaching would require
details of methods, a variety of teachinglearning
material, and a suitable evaluation system. The new
picture would be somewhat like the diagram below:

Aims of education

Stage Specific objectives

Details of syllabus

Principles of content selection and organisation

Criteria for good methods

classroom practices

Criteria for good material

Textbooks and TLM

Principles of evaluation

Evaluation scheme



The curriculum details provide the teacher with
actual tools of classroom practices, while the curriculum

understanding and their capabilities. All because the

conceptual model that guides teachers practices is

core provides a rationale, up to a certain extent, for

adopting those practices. Thus, the classroom practices

incapable of helping them to learn from their own

experiences, to connect their activity of teaching to

can be connected with the larger goals of education. It

could be plausibly argued that this conceptual structure

human life, and to take into consideration childrens

experiences. It is a necessary (only necessary, not

enables the teacher to create a dynamic discourse

between theory and practice, and between educational

sufficient) condition for the teachers to understand the

nature and purpose of their activity to liberate

ideals and educational practices.

When a teacher starts working with children in

themselves and their students from the oppressive

tyranny of the mundane routine imposed by such an

classrooms, he/she has some content that he/she

wants to teach them. They also have, at least in their

unreflective use of textbooks. Then only can they

become dynamic decision makers in the classroom and

minds, some methods of teaching. They also use some

material, minimal or elaborate, and have some idea

can be able to engage not only with the textbook but

also with the childrens minds.

about what it would mean to have learnt something

and what would be the appropriate indicators of that

Understanding that the textbook is only a tool, a

convenient organisational mechanism to collect

learning. In other words, they have a syllabus,

appropriate methodology, a set of teachinglearning

together at one place what the children are expected to

learn, and awareness of the conceptual difference

material, and a system of evaluation. That is the

minimum academic preparation to embark upon

between the syllabus and the textbook are the two

important conditions that enable the teacher to look

However, that does not mean that each one of

beyond the textbook. The possibility of experiences

of children being considered within the classroom gets

these components of classroom practices is well

defined and clear in the teachers mind. Very often, the

a little boost with this distinction. In turn, the possibility

of choice between the textbook and other experiences/

only thing a teacher has is the textbook. The textbook

becomes an embodiment of syllabusall that is in it

resources encourages reflection on the choices made

and, eventually, on the possibility of an improved

has to be taught, and that is all that is to be taught. It becomes

a methodological guidehas to be read and substantial

textbook itself. Similar arguments could be made

concerning conceptual distinction of teaching methods,

portions memorised through repeated reading. It also becomes

the evaluation systemquestions at the end of each chapter

evaluation, and between textbook and other material.

The point being deliberated here is development of

have to be answered orally and in writing, reproducing the text

from the book itself. Here the textbook is an embodiment

reflective teaching practices is a necessary condition for learning

from ones own experience. Reflective practices necessarily

of the syllabus and of all aspects of classroom practices.

But this undistinguished way of looking at the

require theoretical models to organise experience into

knowledge that can be shared, publicly examined, and

textbook and teaching is totally unreflective. It becomes

a very binding, routine, and mundane activity, which

used in situations other than in which this knowledge

arises. It can also be argued that there is no teacher

has very little to do with growth of childrens

who does not have the ideas of syllabus, pedagogy,

material, and evaluation. But there are very few who
have them well articulated, rigorously examined, and
reasonably justified on the basis of more general and
widely shared principles and assumptions. Also, there
are very few teachers who have rigorously worked out
implications of the ideas held by them for classroom
practices. The teachers are neither expected to make
these distinctions nor provided with any opportunity
to do so. Introduction of theoretical models, of which
there is a variety, is a potent way of engendering
reflective practices and encouraging autonomy of the
teacher. The question is not what particular model does
one have; it is whether the model an educator has can
be shared with others and debated about.
However, linking classroom practices with syllabus,
pedagogical choices, variety of teachinglearning
material, and evaluation system is just the first step
towards reflective practices. What is being taught, how,
with what material, and how the learning shall be
assessed can be explained and reflected in terms of
syllabus, etc. But what forms the basis for the choices
made in syllabus, pedagogical decisions, textbooks, etc.?
We have seen that what we called curriculum should
detail the reasons for these choices. But those reasons
themselves may require further explanations and
grounds for accepting them. Even at the cost of
reiteration, let us take an example to understand this
Suppose we want children at the upper primary
level to notice, as part of their social sciences
curriculum, the difference in treatment meted out to
girls and boys in their village. And we want it to be
learnt through an active engagement with observing
parents when they interact with their children and
interviewing children themselves. Suppose one asks the
teacher: Why do you want the children to notice this difference
and then keep this information in mind?

Dialogue A
Answer: Because it is written in the syllabus, and shall form
part of the examination.
Question: Why should it be part of the syllabus at all?
Answer: So that the children can understand the disadvantages
girls face in their bringing up and social living.
Question: Why, as teachers, are we interested in what
disadvantages girls face?
Answer: Because this will become the basis of childrens further
understanding of issues of social justice, equity, and their socioeconomic reasons.
Question: Why is this knowledge and understanding supposed
to be of interest?
Answer: Because it seems to be a reasonably effective way of
developing sensitivity to issues of social justice, a commitment to
equity and capability to act to correct the balance.
Of course, one can carry on the dialogue by further
demanding: Why should we bother about sensitivity to social
justice, commitment to equity and capability to act in favour of
these values? But this brief series of questions and
answers is enough to illustrate the points that need to
be made here. One, in order to justify a small piece of
content (it is only a way of elaborating, there can be no
piece of content disconnected from the whole body
of knowledge) in syllabus one has to refer to broader
principles and values. These principles and values
would point towards the kind of society considered
desirable and how one thinks human beings should
live. Looking from the other side, if education is
supposed to contribute to actualisation of certain values
in society, the curriculum framework would need to
bring forth their connections to bear upon the selection
of content. Two, a teacher who is aware of these
connections should be able to make better choices
about what route to take for development of such
values and abilities.
It is possible to construct a similar dialogue about
why the teacher chooses the observation and interview

route to teach children this simple fact of differential
treatment between boys and girls? Why does he/she
not consider it enough to simply read this fact from
the textbook? In such a dialogue, the teacher will have
to defend the choices by referring to assumptions/
principles concerning human learning.
It seems reasonable to draw a conclusion that the
principles of content selection, criteria for good
methods, material, and evaluation that are formulated
for curriculum are based on a large number of
assumptions, which one can perhaps call foundational
assumptions for quick reference. It could be claimed
that the more aware the teachers, paper setters for
examinations, and textbook writers are of these
underlying assumptions, the better equipped they would
be to keep the system consistent through suitable
curriculum, syllabus, material, evaluation, and classroom
practices. Also, the educational decision makers would
be better prepared to reflect on their own practices,
and therefore, better equipped to generate reliable
professional knowledge. The system as a whole in such
a situation should be less hesitant to recommend
flexibility and better equipped to use the flexibility
available. In short, it seems to be a necessary condition
for promoting or enhancing the autonomy of the
teacher; and a sure step towards sensitive engagement
with the child.
The set of foundational assumptions a curriculum
framework uses needs to be internally consistent, as
clearly articulated as possible, and acceptable to all
stakeholders. If there is a workable agreement on a
core set of such well-articulated principles/
assumptions, it should give a firm ground for informed
debate and resolution of disputes about the content,
methodology, etc. But the problem is that success in a
complete and consistent articulation of all these
assumptions always remains limited. One way of doing

a reasonably good job in this area is to carefully examine

the nature and connections of these foundational
assumptions. A tentative suggestion could be that on
the basis of this examination of their nature and
connections, the bulk of foundational assumptions can
be put into four slightly overlapping groups:

assumptions concerning human being and

society or socio-political assumptions,

epistemological assumptions,

assumptions about learning, and

assumptions concerning the child and its

Assumptions Concerning Human Being and
Society (Socio-political)
The values that are promoted through education, and
that guide all further curricular efforts, themselves
spring from the notions of a desirable society and of
human beings prevalent among the decision makers. A
typical foundational statement in this area could be:
Education should aim at a pluralistic democratic society based
on justice, equity and freedom. Or a closely related social
vision could be autonomous collectives of autonomous human
beings connected with each other in mutual appreciation and
knowledge. These are just two examples. A curriculum
framework makes many assumptions about what is
valuable in human life and how to live together, which
could be called politico-ethical in nature.
This group of assumptions is perhaps the most
important one and needs clearer consensus of all the
concerned people. Also, though it allows for a great range
of different articulations depending upon individual
preferences, it is the least tolerant to violation of the agreed
upon principles. If we want a usable curriculum
framework that can be debated meaningfully and that
people can identify with, then we need to state our basic
assumptions/principles in this area clearly. The aims and
objectives are mostly, though not exclusively, derived from
or are simply rephrased versions of these assumptions.

Epistemological Assumptions
In education, the only route permissible to realise the
values and dreams a society cherishes is the path of
learning. If pluralistic society be a desirable goal, the
only help education can render is through developing
understanding, making information available, and
teaching critical appraisal of ideas. Thus, the fulcrum
of all educational endeavour is knowledge in its widest
senseincluding understanding, ways of thinking,
values, and skills. An educator has to assume that
knowing influences belief and action. If he/she denies
this assumption, the very foundation of his/her
educational effort would vanish.
The issues of selection of knowledge to teach, their
ordering, integrated versus subject-wise curricula, the
information versus knowledge versus abilities debate,
etc. heavily rely on the epistemological assumptions
different participants in these debates make. One very
important reason why not much headway is made in
resolving educational debates is that the participants
never get to the fundamental assumptions made. The
curricular content selection and organisation heavily
depends on the epistemological assumptions together
with the assumptions about learning.
Assumptions about Learning
During the last ten years or so, due to DPEP and several
other large-scale programmes, classroom practices and
organisation have come into sharper focus. All the
positively interpreted loaded expressions like activitybased teaching, child-centred teaching, joyful
learning, etc. make use of a host of assumptions about
how children learn. Actually, this has been the focus
of educational debates in the last decade almost totally
bypassing the desirable society and epistemological
considerations. A clear articulation of the assumptions
about the child and human learning in general should
be able to inform the classroom practices better and

also show the limitations that psychology alone as

foundation of curriculum has. Since this is a wellaccepted part of curriculum, we need no further
arguments to establish the need for articulation of
assumptions about learning.
Assumptions Concerning Children and their

All curricular material ultimately is for the teacher to
be able to meaningfully engage with the child. That
makes it necessary to understand how the child sees
the world. The childs worldview, in turn, depends on
the life experiences he/she has and the immediate
socio-cultural and physical environment he/she lives
in. This area involves assumptions regarding the childs
nature (here there is a slight overlap with the
assumptions about learning) and his/her social context.
The social context has its own influence on the ideas
about desirable society and how human beings are
understood. Thus, this set of assumptions has another
significant overlap with assumptions concerning human
beings and society. Its main significance is in bringing
the immediate socio-cultural aspect inin other words,
contexualisation of assumptions regarding desirable
society and psychology of learning.
If one takes this last discussion into consideration,
the graphical representation of curriculum would be
as shown on the top on the next page.
Such a structure facilitates understanding of the terms
curriculum framework, curriculum, syllabus,
textbooks and other teaching learning material, and
classroom practices in a connected manner. To an
educationist who is used to dealing with such concepts,
these simple structures perhaps do not offer much,
but to people who are grappling with educational
decision making at various levels, it can offer help as a
tool to organise different elements of education and
see connections between them. It also allows one to


Assumptions concerning human
beings and society

Aims of education

Stage Specific objectives

Details of syllabus

Epistemological Assumptions
Principles of content selection and organisation
Assumptions about learning

Assumed understanding of the

child and her context

Criteria for good methods

classroom practices

Criteria for good material

Textbooks and TLM

Principles of evaluation

Evaluation scheme




The Graphical Representation of Curriculum Framework

understand the influence of these notions on each other
and, therefore, provides a theoretical background for

problems, a framework of ideas and concepts has been

developed that has three levels of articulation and

the debate on flexibility in curriculum, multiplicity of

textbooks, and decentralisation.

justification. In the graphical representation of this

framework, the left-most block contains assumptions

At this stage, it would be useful to recapitulate what

has been said and look at various emerging definitions

regarding humans, society, knowledge, learning, child, and

his/her context. All this put together could be called

and relationships. It has been assumed that the central

problem a curriculum addresses is that of helping the

foundations of curriculum. The middle block, which

contains aims of education, curricular objectives,

child to progress from her present level of understanding

and capabilities to a desired level in areas that are coherent

principles of selection and organisation of content, criteria

for methods, material and evaluation, could be termed as

with the aims of education accepted in the childs society.

In other words, a curriculum is a planned/pre-figured

the curriculum. And, the right-most block contains

detailed syllabi, details of methods, textbooks and material,

coordination between the aims of education and the childs

capabilities; therefore, it has to have a well-thought-out

and evaluation system, and could be called curricular


direction, reliable routes of progress, and ample flexibility

to accommodate unpredictable directions taken by the

Curriculum Framework: It is a plan that interprets

educational aims, vis--vis both individual and society,
to arrive at an understanding of the kinds of learning
experiences schools must provide to children.
(Paraphrased from a short document circulated in
Steering Committee, titled Reviewing the Curriculum

childs progress and interests, and still retain its direction

and broadly planned routes.
In discussion of the problems arising out of this
enterprise and attempts to find solutions to these

2004: Some notes for consideration.) This plan should
include the foundational assumptions and basis of
choice for experiences.
Curriculum: As mentioned earlier in this paper,
curriculum is, perhaps, best thought of as that set of planned
activities which are designed to implement a particular educational
aim a set of such aimsin terms of the content of what is
to be taught and the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are to
be deliberately fostered, together with statements of criteria for
selection of content, and choices in methods, materials, and
evaluation. In reference to the framework above, it would
mean the curriculum core and syllabus put together.

Syllabus: It refers to the content of what is to be taught

and the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are to be
deliberately fostered, together with stage-specific
In education of a country, very few things apart
from the broad principles like justice, equity, democracy,
etc. can be finally decided. Therefore, a terrain map of
curriculum framework, curriculum, and syllabus can
only highlight the significance of various issues,
establish connections between different components,
highlight the significance of questions raised, and
provide hints at different kinds of answers. In short, a
conceptual framework can provide a theoretical tool
for investigation and coherent debate only.
The component of the suggested conceptual
framework that is called foundations of curriculum
here is by nature a perpetually contested one. What is a
human being? What kind of society do we want? How
shall we determine how much progress have we made
in the desired direction? What helps or hinders in
moving in the desired direction? All these and similar
questions admit no final answers. Similarly, there are
contesting theories in epistemology and psychology of
learning, and various interpretations of contextual
differences and understanding of children. Therefore,

the foundational assumptions have to be articulated

with great care and sufficient generality to provide space
for all legitimate variations. This area is a matter of
constant debate, study, and discourse. Stating the
assumptions here provides a general direction to the
debate and can keep the national discourse coherent
and intelligible.
One can afford to be slightly more specific in the
middle area, curriculum core, where the general notions
of human values, stated assumptions in foundational
area (in spite of being contested), Indian Constitution,
Human Rights declarations, etc. provide a firmer
ground for statement of aims and general concerns.
The choice of epistemology and psychology we happen
to make allow enunciation of general principles of
content selection and methods, etc. Therefore, it
becomes possible to articulate certain general principles
in this area at the central and state levels, with room
for interpretations and additions at the district level.
The third component, curricular details, needs to
be worked out in concrete terms and in detail as the
name suggests. In this block, the syllabus perhaps can
be worked out at the state/district level, with provisions
for district and school level reorganisation. The
methods, materials and evaluation, in the given
parameters, should be the choices made at the school


4.1 The Approach
The National Curriculum Framework documents have
always advocated flexibility within a framework of
principles. Other important concerns expressed in the
three curricular documents are national integrity,
democratic values, and standards of education. In this
context, the National Focus Group (NFG) on
Curriculum, Syllabus, and Textbooks recommends a
curriculum framework that


facilitates schools and teachers to make

decisions about choice of content, pedagogy,
teachinglearning material, evaluation, etc. at
the school level; in other words, a national
curriculum framework for increased autonomy
of the school;

provides help to the teacher in becoming a

reflective practitioner who learns from her own

emphasises learning with understanding and

learning to learn;
helps children




understanding based on their day-to-day

experiences; and

can be used as a tool for informed decision

making by schools and the teachers, and by
school systems including various teacher
education and administration structures.

4.2 Position on Elements of Curriculum

4.2.1 The General Aims of Education

I. Aims in Policies and Committees/Commissions/Reports
Almost all policy and curricular documents on
education in India contain some form of aims of
education. These are nearly always preceded by an
account of national concerns and priorities, and the
role perceived for education in nation building. Since
1947, the key policy documents on education brought
out are by the University Education Commission (UEC)
1948-49, the Secondary Education Commission (SEC)
1952-53, the Education Commission (REC) 1964-66,
Ishwarbahai Patel Review Committee (IPRC) 1970,
National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986, Review
Committee on the National Policy on Education
(NPERC) 1990, Learning Without Burden (LWB) 1993;
also three curricular frameworks have been prepared
in 1975, 1988, and 2000.

Perusal of the sections on aims of education in each of

these documents is revealing. For instance, the UEC states:
We must have a conception of the social order for
which we are educating our youthour educational
system must find its guiding principle in the aims of
the social order for which it prepares, in the nature of
the civilization it hopes to build.
The outline of social philosophy which should govern
all our institutions, educational as well as economical
and political, are indicated in the preamble of our
Constitution, We the people of India, having resolved
to constitute India into a sovereign, democratic
Republic and to secure to all its citizens: Justice, social,
economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression,
belief, faith and worship; Equality of status,
opportunity; and to promote among all, Fraternity
assuring the dignity of the individual and unity of the
nationWe are engaged in a quest for democracy
through the realisation of justice, liberty, equality and

Under each of these ideas, the Commission introduces

a clusters of aims.
The SEC also bases its rationale for aims on the
Preamble (and also indicates that school education
policy should have preceded university policy!):
India has recently achieved its political freedom, and
has, after careful consideration, decided to transform
itself into a secular, democratic republic. This means
that the educational system must make its contribution
to the development of habits, attitudes and qualities
of character, which will enable its citizens to bear
worthily the responsibilities of democratic citizenship
and to counteract all those fissiparous tendencies which
hinder the emergence of a broad, national and secular
outlook. It is clear that we have to formulate our
aims with reference to these broad categoriesthe
training of character to fit the students to participate
creatively as citizens in the emerging democratic social
order, the improvement of their practical and
vocational efficiency so that they may play a part in

building up the economic prosperity of the country,
and the development of their literary, artistic and cultural
interests, which are necessary for the self-expression and
for the full development of the human personality.

Both these documents are significant in that they

were the first policy documents on university and
secondary education after independence. Both recognise
the need for renewal and re-organisation in the light
of the changed political situation in India. Both these
documents, in their own ways, pay great attention to
aims of education, their rationale, the sources upon
which they are to be based, and the broad categories
in which they are to be placed. Perhaps this was due to
the socio-political energy prevalent in the country that
was evolving its first ever free Constitution, perhaps
the memory of the struggles that led to this historic
moment was still fresh in the minds of the education
policy makers.
The REC of 1964-66, which offered the finest
statement on how to achieve equality, the key aim of
education, by adopting the common school system, is,
paradoxically, also the first policy document to blur
the clarity of educational aims. The IPRC dismembers
aims from school education, looking at it from an
entirely different angle: Having considered the NCERT
Framework and keeping in mind the Constitutional
Directive contained in Article 45 which enjoins that
the State shall provide free and compulsory education
for all children until they complete the age of 14 years
we feel that the objectives of the compulsory stage of
school education must necessarily be distinct from the
objectives of education beyond this stage.
By 1986, the NPE offered more angles to the aims.
Invoking the Constitution, it introduces a notion of
common core that would include history of freedom

struggle, constitutional obligations, content essential to

nurture national identity including value of Indias
common cultural heritage, egalitarianism, democracy,
secularism, equality of sexes, protection of
environment, removal of social barriers, small family
norm, scientific temper, and equality of educational
opportunity. Apart from listing disparate things in a
jumbled way, it is important to note that the thrust on
self-development that the first two policies were so
conscious of, that got re-defined as a resource by 1966,
now does not even find mention in the aims. On the
one hand, it states that it is committed to equality (for
example, womens equality, vowing to redress
accumulated distortions of the past); on the other
hand, it offers a non-formal centre for the less privileged,
where children engaged in child labour can learn (if
they are not asleep through exhaustion), a couple of
hours after labour, some alphabet and numbers in the
name of non-formal education. Thus in policy
documents and commission reports, there seems to
be a gradual de-emphasis on articulation of aims.
II. Aims in the Documents on Curriculum Frameworks
All three national curriculum frameworks want to do
much of the work that a carefully formulated statement
of aims should be doing through variously articulated
concerns. The concerns are certainly important, and
might even be of immense help in articulating
educational aims in a society, but they cannot be readily
used as aims in educational decision making.
Again, all these documents talk of objectives of
education (the Curriculum for Ten-year School, 1975,
talks of stage-wise general objectives, and not for
general objectives of education) and produce a long,
somewhat disparate, list to serve for such objectives.
The list form of aims though is easier to agree upon5

John White, New aims for a new national Curriculum, in The National Curriculum Beyond 2000: the QCA and the aims of Education. Institute of
Education,University of London, 1998.

usually ends up being self-contradictory and is found
incapable of providing a rationale for further
educational decision making6. Such lists cannot help
pedagogically because the listed principles are not broad
enough and do not carry the logical force of an
argument. Socio-politically, they fail to reflect aspirations
of all people.
III. Need of and Criteria for Good Educational Aims
Socio-political Standpoint: The aims reflect
collective aspirations of all sections of the society and
help develop capability to define the kind of social life
that is seen as desirable, which should hold good for
all in a democracy, and pursue it. That implies certain
values. The Constitution is an embodiment of those
values as they are understood today. Education has a
dual jobunderstanding and respecting those values
and Constitution, and also going beyond and
developing a critical appreciation of them. Therefore,
though the aims have to be in agreement with the
Constitution, they cannot solely be justified on the basis
of it. Similarly, the international documents like the
Declaration of Human Rights and Child Rights
Conventions, though rooted in a broad vision of
humanity, (1) cannot sufficiently reflect a specific vision
of a particular society, (2) are often used as coercive
tools to selectively embarrass or inflict punishment by
the international agencies and powers, and (3) again
need to be critically reflected upon. Therefore,
justification of aims of education has to be rooted in
the vision of humanity in the society at the particular
time of their articulation.
Pedagogical Standpoint: Educational aims are what
make varied activities in schools and other educational
institutions part of a pattern and distinguishable as
educational in character. An educational aim helps the
teacher connect his present activity to a cherished future

outcome without making it instrumental at present, and,

therefore, give direction without divorcing from the
present. Dewey puts it very succinctly: The aim as a
foreseen end gives direction to the activity; it is not an
idle view of a mere spectator, but influences the steps
taken to reach the end. The foresight functions in three
ways. In the first place, it involves careful observation
of the given conditions to see what are the means
available for reaching the end, and to discover the
hindrances in the way. In case of a school this means
a careful study of what children at age, say, of 6 years
are capable of and what socio-cultural conditions
prevail. In the second place, Dewey goes on, it
suggests the proper order or sequence in the use of
means. It facilitates an economical selection and
arrangement. For schools, that means making decisions
on what to teach and in which sequence. In the third
place, it makes choice of alternatives possible. If we
can predict the outcome of acting this way or that, we
can then compare the value of the two courses of
action; we can pass judgment upon their relative
desirability. That would give us the criteria for choice.
In this regards Dewey declares, [T]he net conclusion
is that acting with an aim is all one with acting
intelligently. (John Dewey, Democracy and Education,
Chapter 8, Section 1, The nature of an aim)
IV. What We Propose
The articulation of aims needs to serve the two abovementioned purposes of aligning the whole educational
effort to social aspirations and to provide direction to
each individual activity in that total educational effort.
We have discussed the ground for aims in the section
on basic assumptions, and since this document is only
to serve as a position paper, here the aims are stated
only as principles and no elaborate justifications and/
or explanations are provided.

Rohit Dhankar, On Curriculum Framework, Seminar, issue 493, September 2000. New Delhi.

Two-part Articulation
A: Values and ideals education should promote in
society, as well as help the learner develop a rational
commitment to. They are:

in new situations is necessary to function

autonomously in a democratic society.

Work and ability to participate in economic processes:

Choices in life and ability to participate in the

Equalityof status and opportunity

Freedomthought, expression, belief, faith and

democratic processes depend on ability to

contribute to the society in its various

worship, and as a value in life

Autonomy of mindas independence of

Aesthetic appreciation/creation: Appreciation of

thinking, based on reason

Autonomy of actionfreedom to chose, ability

beauty and art forms are an integral part of

human life.

and freedom to decide, and ability and freedom

to act

4.2.2 Stage-wise General Objectives of Education

The stage-wise objectives need to be arrived at by
keeping in mind the general aims of education, the
developmental stages of children, nature of knowledge
in general and curricular subject areas in particular, and
the childs socio-political context. They cannot be only
in the form of subject-specific knowledge. Objectives
here would be more of stage-specific interpretation
of the general aims of education and, therefore, have
to be articulated in terms of capabilities, values,
attitudes, and knowledge base in general. The objectives
also have to be specific enough to be used as guidelines
for content selection and organisation.
Articulation of curricular objectives should also
take cue from the statement of aims and could be
written in two parts for each stage. The stages should
be defined as:
1. Primary-I: 2 years of schooling, roughly 57
years of age
2. Primary-II: 35 years of schooling, roughly
811 years of age
3. Upper Primary: 68 years of schooling, 1214
years of age
4. Secondary: 910 years schooling, 1516 years
of age
5. Higher Secondary: 1112 years of schooling,
1718 years of age

Care and respect for othersgoing beyond

respecting their own freedom and autonomy,
concern about well-being and sensitivity to all
members of the society

Justicesocial, economic, and political

Education should help learners to not only cherish these

values for themselves but also to respect equality,

freedom, autonomy, etc. of others.
B: Capabilities of individual human beings that
are likely to help in development of values and ideals
articulated in Section A.
Knowledge base: There should be a sufficiently
broad knowledge base encompassing all crucial
areas of socio-political life, and all basic ways

of investigation and validation of knowledge.

Sensitivity to others: Sensitivity to others wellbeing and feelings, coupled with knowledge,
should form the basis of rational commitment

to values. Others should include all life forms.

Rational/critical attitude: Critical rationality is the

only way to autonomy of thought and action.

Learning to learn: The future needs of
development of knowledge, reason, sensitivity,
and skills cannot be determined in advance.
Therefore, ability to learn as new needs arise

There is no need for year-wise division of

always remain backward). The third perspective of

objectives; stage-wise achievement of objectives would

social relevance surfaces only in the context of some

be enough. The syllabus can be further divided, if need


be. Though a stage-wise syllabus would give the school

and teachers much more freedom and flexibility.

The social vision and epistemological

considerations have a lot of potential for arbitrating in

Part one at each stage should interpret the

this debate and that potential remains unexplored. The

corresponding part of the general aims, say, democratic

criteria for selection and organisation of content should

values, and what form they would take at the end of

take into consideration these aspects as well and should

primary, upper primary, and so on. Part two should

be able to suggest solutions to the above-mentioned

state the levels of learning expected to be reached at


that stage. These levels should be attainments expected

of the part one of the concerned stage.

School curricula are usually organised in various

subjects. The subjects themselves have their basis in

Curricular objectives for all but the last stage, i.e.,

traditions and disciplinary knowledge. Though the

senior higher secondary, can be formulated at the state

subject-based organisation of curriculum is largely

and district level and each school can reorganise them

accepted, this is also criticised for putting knowledge

as per needs of their children and teachers.

in watertight compartments, and thereby, fragmentising

4.2.3 Principles of Content Selection and

it. This alluded fragmentisation of knowledge is said


to be alien to the childs way of looking at the world

One of the constant demands faced in curriculum

and, therefore, is unsuitable for developing a proper

planning is to create new subjects, add new topics, and

understanding of the world in which the child lives.

include material favoured by various interest groups.

Another related problem is concerned with adequate

This is a healthy trend in a democracy as it expresses

basis for introduction of new subjects or reorganisation

public expectations from education and sees curriculum

of the existing subject areas.

planning as a contested area open for negotiation. But

The issues of what should be included in the

this demand can become problematic in the absence

curriculum and proper sequencing of what is selected

of well-defined criteria for content selection and

for inclusion are constantly debated. Many consider

organisation of content in subject areas, and that is the

the lack of clarity on criteria for making choices on

situation we are facing today. Secondly, the problem

these issues as the main cause of increasing curricular

of curricular load is substantially the problem of a

load. In brief, the issues of basis of subject areas,

jumbled heap of information in absence of organising

inclusion of subject areas in curriculum, selection of

principles and conceptual frameworks for investigation

content in each subject area and its sequencing, integrated

and understanding. Both these problems are debated

curriculum, theme-based teaching, relative weightage

at present more from the pedagogical point of view

given to subject areas in terms of teaching time and

(the child cannot learn so much at such and such a

marks allocation, and curricular load are all related to

stage) and from standards point of view (if our

the criteria for selection and organisation of the

children do not learn this much, we as a nation will

curricular knowledge.

It is suggested here that the problem of selection
and organisation of curricular knowledge should be

concrete level. For example, if we take development

of capability to think rationally, on unpacking, it points

considered from at least four different perspectives;

those of aims of education, epistemological, childs learning

to abilities to gather and make sense of information,

consideration from as many perspectives as possible,

and mental development, and the childs context. A brief

consideration of each of these perspectives in turn

fair amount of proficiency in logical reasoning, ability

to spot inconsistency and incoherence, and an attitude

would be useful here.

Aims of Education

to avoid inconsistency. But what specific information,

experiences, and principles (knowledge) are likely to

The issue of what students should know is a direct

corollary of what education is expected to achieve for

help develop these capabilities is still an unanswered

question. In order to bring this principle to bear upon

them. In other words what is worth teaching is a

derivative of what aims are worth pursuing in education;

the actual task of curriculum development, a host of

conceptual tools (information, principles, assumptions)

any justification of what is being chosen for teaching

will necessarily involve a reference to the aims the choice

are required. The preceding considerations will provide

part of that set of tools.

in question will help achieve. The aims of education, in

turn, are guided by the desirable socio-political (socio-

Epistemological Considerations
The most influential factor in selection and organisation

political here is meant to include cultural and economic

as well) conditions in a society. Aims of education

of curricular knowledge is the assumed nature of

knowledge itself. Knowledge seen as a bundle of

articulate (a) the capabilities and values of individuals

that are thought to be necessary for the desirable society,

information and a finished product to be transferred

to the childs mind immediately demands a set of

and (b) key principles of the socio-political vision of

the society that education is supposed to help realise.

pedagogically important assumptions. One, it demands

postulation of an ultimate store-house of human

Since, generally there is a set of aims rather than a single

aim of education, it also implies that the content should

knowledge (all the disciplines and encyclopaedias put

together). The boundaries of disciplines acquire sanctity

be selected to do justice to the entire set of aims.

Therefore, comprehensiveness and balance are

based on authority of tradition and masters who created

the knowledge enshrined in the disciplines. Textbooks

important factors in curricular choices. From this

perspective, curriculum should select experiences that

become packages of knowledge specially designed to

be transferred in specified time periods, one after the

build a knowledge base, capabilities to think rationally,

ability to learn, capacity to work and to participate in

other. In absence of any higher order principles, the

increased flow of information becomes daunting, as

economic processes, sensitivity to others, and aesthetic

appreciationsuitable for the development of a

all that has to find place in the childs mind in a limited

time. Together with a perfect recipe for mental

rational commitment to the democratic values of

equality, freedom, autonomy of mind, autonomy of

confusion, attempts to capture all that information

becomes a source of burden, and causes scope for

action, care and respect for others, and justice.

Articulation of a criteria at this level of generality,

developing arguments as to pushing up new fancy

subjects on the one hand and rigid adherence to the

however, cannot provide sufficient guidance at a

old disciplines on the other.

Knowledge seen as a finished product to be
transferred into the childs mind also encourages

body to make a better sense of the new information.

Therefore, the increased flow of information becomes

conception of the learner as a passive receptor. Further

on, it encourages the thinking that knowledge can be

illuminating rather than daunting. The burden of noncomprehension can be substantially reduced, and

acquired without understanding it, and it can be

understood without developing the ability to use/apply

informed choices regarding what to include and what

not to become possible with this altered conception

it. Therefore, knowledge is reduced to grammatically

correct use of certain terms and is shorn of

of knowledge as the basis.

From this perspective, grasp on the ways of

understanding, reflection, and use in construction of


creation of knowledge and its validation, organisation,

and bringing to bear upon decision making and action

Alternatively, we can conceive of knowledge as

experience organised, mainly through language, into

become more important in order to achieve aims of

education than mastering a vast repertoire of

patterns of thought (or structures of concepts), thus

creating meaning, which in turn helps in understanding

information. It points to a very dynamic engagement

with the world through observing, feeling, reflecting,

the world we live in. Human beings, over time, have

evolved both a wealth of knowledge in this sense, and

acting, and sharing as a way of knowledge acquisition.

For the curricular purposes, all capabilities that are

also, a repertoire of ways of thinking and constructing

more knowledge. Each new entrant in the field of

important to achieve the aims of education can be

organised as follows:

human thought has to re-create a significant part of

this wealth in her own mind. This is important (a) as a

1. Basic capabilities: These are capabilities that

form the basis of all learning and meaningful

basis for further thinking and for acting appropriately

in this world, and (b) as examples to learn to participate

participation and experiences in social life.

a. Language: It provides the basis for all human

in the very process of knowledge creation, constructing

meaning, and human action. This conception of

meaning making and, therefore, creates

possibilities of development of

knowledge allows us to respect the body of knowledge

created together with its principles of organisation and

understanding and knowledge. It provides

the ability to symbolise to codify all

creation, and, still, allows significant flexibility to look

for alternative and better-suited principles.

knowledge, but claims none of it exclusively

of its own. Development of language for

The process of acquisition of knowledge becomes

the process of active creation by the learner. The

a child is synonymous with development

of understanding, identity, and largely,

textbook becomes a tool to provide examples, pointers,

programmes to be perused, and introduction of

particularly after the initial stages, capability

to relate with others. A substantial part of

principles. The increased information flow becomes

an object of interest in the light of general principles

practical aspect of performing arts and

literature is very closely related to the basis

to accommodate in the existing body of knowledge,

and also becomes a challenge to necessitate re-

of all meaning making.

Relationships: It could be called social

evaluation of principles and reorganise the existing


development with some justification, but



relating to the natural world and aspects

of ones own personality, though might be

been emphasising only the knowledge base somewhat

inadequately understood as collection of information.

dependent on social relationships, also

have a very special flavour of their own.

If we want to emphasise the process of knowledge

formation and principles of organisation then perhaps

This is the area of constructing selfidentity, relating it with others, emotional

through curriculum we would give as wide an

experience to our children as possible. The selection

richness, sensitivity, and values.

Capabilities for work and action: These are

and organisation of curricular content then becomes a

very important question for the development of

more like a cluster of wide range of

abilities drawing upon physical skills,

independence of thought and action, and for

development of creativity.

values, and understanding. The practical

aspect of fine arts should become a

A relevant question here would be: can there be a

rational criteria for such a selection? Or it always has

significant part of this area.

Forms of understanding

to be a random somewhat arbitrary choice? To answer

this question one has to see if it is possible to organise

Organisation of knowledge for curricular purposes is

extremely important, as we have argued above.

human knowledge on the basis of the four criteria we

have mentioned above, namely: experience, concepts,

Knowledge is creation of human mind. It necessarily

involves experience, concept formation, ways of

investigation procedures, and validation procedures. In

other word: does mathematics involves the same kinds

investigation and ways of validation. In other words

all this means there has to be some kind of experience

of experiences, concepts, methods and validation as

history does? Are there any fundamental differences

base for knowledge. That experience has to be made

intelligible and sharable with others through language,

in the concepts and validation procedures used in

sciences on the one hand and ethics on the other?

which involves use of concepts. If one finds any gapes

in the given knowledge base new questions arise. Such

The answer seems to be yes, there are fundamental

differences. But there could be more than one

questions cannot be answered randomly, to find

satisfactory answers one has to investigate, therefore,

organisational schemes based on these criteria. What

we are proposing is that a curriculum has to presuppose

gradual building of knowledge presupposes ways of

investigation. All knowledge claims cannot be

some such scheme or other, without that there shall be

no basis for selection and organisation of content. It

considered valid automatically, they have to be tested

some how, therefore, one needs some validation

is a matter of research and serious study to develop

such a scheme of organisation, no totally satisfactory

procedures. Thus our earlier claim that knowledge

formation requires: experience, concept formation,

scheme is readily available at present, but it is certainly

possible to formulate a working hypothesis. We are

investigation methods, and validation procedures.

If we want children to be rationally autonomous,

presenting one such scheme below as an example. This

scheme organises human knowledge in to seven basic

perhaps it would be necessary for them to have a grasp

on the process of knowledge formation as well as an

forms of understanding. What is meant by basic forms

of understanding is that each form of understanding

initial knowledge base. So far our education system has

mentioned has some speciality of its own in terms of

its concepts, validation procedures and/or investigation
methods that can not be completely reduced to other

are just the basic ways of looking at the world and

organising experience. We shall return to this point

forms. Also, it mean that such differences are significant

for development of independence of thought and ways

again after a brief presentation of the scheme.

This scheme of organisation of knowledge

of knowing the world. In addition, it implies that as

human understanding stands today, the proposed

considers seven basic forms of understanding, namely:

mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, history,

scheme encompasses, by no means all, but most of it.

Therefore it could be used as a tool for curricular

aesthetic, ethics, and philosophy. It is given in a tabular

form fo the sake of brevity and clarity. This whole

decision making, at least till we have a better scheme

available to us.

scheme draws heavily on works of P.H. Hirst1 and

R.F. Dearden2 but also modifies their basic ideas very

A caution before we present the said scheme: the

forms of understanding as explained below are not

significantly. The idea is just to illustrate the point, there

is not enough space available here to do justice to the

university disciplines, nor are they school subjects. They


Forms of understanding3
S.No. Form



Content & concepts

Truth Criteria Investigation


Highly abstract


Step by step

concepts, clear



Very high in


on the basis
of axioms,




criteria used,


Fallibility enters,
is a strength of


but alone

logical derivation

science rather
than its weakness.

Liberal education and the nature of knowledge, in Education and Development of Reason, edited by RF Dearden, PH Hirst and R.S. Peters, Routledge and

Kegan Paul, London.

The philosophy of primary education, RF Dearden, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.
Rohit Dhankar, An epistemological perspective on school curriculum, Paper presented in the Ninth East-West Philosophers Conference, Hawaii University,
Honolulu, 2005.

causal relations.
Concepts describe


of predictions,
devising ways

Certain enough
to act, not

of explain

(of nature) is

of empirical
verification of

enough to



Revision of

Highly precise.

on falsifiability.

Social Sciences Social phenomena,


Methods used
in science,

In addition
to science,

Lot of room
for revise-ability,

causal relations

of human

into human

uncertain trends

yes, but

choice laden

The subject

and patterns.

rationalisations of
human mind enter.


matter can
not be treated

to human world.

Concepts describe
of explain experience,

as objects
of enquiry.

empirically grounded.
Human purposes

The very

and welfare becomes


may change
the reality.

understanding to
the reality.


The past happenings,

construction of

Use the
methods of

of a narrative

Probable truth
at the most.

narrative based
on evidence.

social science,

on the basis
of evidence,

Important thing
is coherence


the facts

of the narrative,
and its

cross-validation themselves
in a community have to

richness in
meaning for

of investigators, established,

present day.

and procedural creation of
facts is
from building
of narrative.
into other remote
minds, times..
Interpretation in
terms of human
projecting ones
ideas into
construction of
others ideas.


Values (moral),
actions, reasons,


Weighing pros
and cons,

Difficult to




Open choices,
contested claims.





Values (aesthetic),



More open

reasons, concepts,


and not

very difficult


is the

to decide.


has no



All of the

All of the

Depends of



the issue under


All the above.

This kind of classification can be used to maintain
a balance in constructing school subjects and organising
learning experiences for the children in the school.
Perhaps it will increase the chances of giving adequate
importance all ways of making sense of experience.
These forms of understanding should not be confused
with the university disciplines, though all the disciplines
do use the methods of one or more of these forms
of understanding.
Childs Mental Development
Selection as well as organisation of content is closely
linked to the stage of mental development of the child
and pedagogy assumed. Possibility of creating the childs
interest, level of abstraction and generalisation that a
child can handle, etc. all form important considerations.
Creation or re-creation of all knowledge needs an
experience base, language abilities, association with other
human beings, and interaction with the natural world.
At the time when the child enters school, this common
base for all knowledge is very well developed, but
entirely in an intuitive manner. At the first stage in school,
then, there may be a greater need for building on this
base in a more conscious and engaged manner. The
division into subjects here may not be very important
beyond recognising place for language and mathematics
in organising activities (even of that distinction the child
need not be conscious; it would be enough for the
teacher to plan in a conscious manner). The rest of the
school experience can be totally integrated, if rich
enough in interaction, with the natural and social
environment. Understanding, doing and aesthetic
appreciation all could easily be made parts of this
One important point in this connection is that the
curriculum and the teachers should be aware of the
future development of the forms of knowledge, and
the learners experiences should be organised to develop
basis for all areas. The learner neither needs to know

nor could be expected to be aware that the experiences

are chosen with forms of knowledge in mind.
At the primary level there may not be enough
conceptual basis for any clear demarcation of sciences
and social sciences, but it could be possible to introduce
ways of looking at the social and natural world in the
form of activities, ways of data collection, and making
sense out of them.
Upper primary may be the place for emergence
of more clearly defined subject areas, taking into
consideration the above-mentioned forms of
knowledge. Even here, ethical understanding and
philosophy (in the general sense of recognising larger
patterns across subject areas, precision in understanding
concepts, and looking for justifications for accepting/
rejecting claims) should run more across the curriculum
than being separate subjects. However, a space for
dialogical explorations into social issues and knowledge
at this stage could go a long way in encouraging rational
By the time children reach the secondary education
stage, they acquire sufficient knowledge base,
experience, language abilities, and maturity to engage
with forms of knowledge in their full sense: concepts,
structure of body of knowledge, investigation
methods, and validation procedures. Therefore, the
subjects could be more closely linked with the basic
forms as listed above and the disciplines as they are
recognised in higher education today.
The issues of adequate representation of all forms
of knowledge and emphasis on similarities, special
characteristics, and widest possible interconnections
between them become important when the subject
areas are more clearly defined.
The Childs Context
The childs language abilities, knowledge and skill base,
and values and attitude all develop in the process of
living in his/her natural and social context. Any

possibility of either being interested in or engaging with
new ideas and ways of thinking has to be mediated by
her existing experience and knowledge base. The
curricular objectives in general as well as objectives of
different subject areas within the curriculum would
certainly admit a great flexibility in choice of what
particular concepts, principles, and information should
be selected to achieve them. This choice itself has to
depend on the concrete examples and experiences that
could be made available to the learner. Therefore, the
selection of topics within subjects and how they should
be taught has to be very much context dependent.
A suggested checklist for selection and organisation
of content based on the above discussion:

Agreement with objectives, and guided by


Agreement with national expectations of


Epistemic priority to understand the nature

of the discipline

Conceptual connectionspriority, sequencing

Investigation methodology and validation
proceduresteaching as well as organisation
of subject area

Interconnections between disciplines and

relationship to life

Psychologically appropriate
Useful in further learningbroadest

Connection with local life and with the rest of

the world

Possible contribution to development of

Criteria should be defined at the national level, structure at the
state/district, and selection of individual items at district/school/
classroom level.

4.2.4 Teaching-learning Methods and

Classroom Practices
Classroom, or any other surrounding where learners
are undergoing experiences that help them achieve the
desired curricular objectives, is the place where the core
of educational activity takes place. As such, the choice
of pedagogy is essentially linked with all the aspects
that have been discussed so far, i.e., aims of education,
curricular objectives, scheme of studies, stage of
schooling, knowledge areas, and contents. In addition,
it is to be linked to the assumptions about learning
based on theoretical and experiential underpinnings,
and the social, economic, and age-specific context of
the learner. The choice of textbooks and other
teachinglearning materials, to be discussed in the
following section, is essentially linked to the choice of
methods and classroom processes. The basic principles
that should guide the choice of classroom practices
could be outlined as follows.
Understanding that Children Construct their Own Knowledge
Every individual including children is capable of
constructing, and does construct, his/her own
knowledge. The responsibility of the school and
teachers is to enable this process through appropriate
means and processes, and with adequate direction and
support. There are several ways of construction of
knowledge, and there could be several ways of
generalising as well as validating the knowledge
constructed. Once children are taken through various
processes of knowledge generation and validation, they
not only develop an understanding at that point of
time or relating to that particular content area, but also
the capacity to build their own understanding in various
other circumstances and situations.
Importance of Experiences in Learning
Experience has an important place in the process of
knowledge construction or understanding of a concept.

Experience is perhaps the most important step in the
process of discovery through which individuals can
be made to feel, reflect, and arrive at ideas. An
understanding of the experiential base of children is
also important in the choice of pedagogy. Relating to
what they have already experienced helps in the process
of reflection. It is a continuous challenge for teachers
to look for suitable ways of creating and drawing
upon experiences. New experiences could be organised
for children in several ways. It could be through a
process of observing something happen (e.g.,
observing the process of plant germination in a real
situation, or observing different stages of milk collection
and processing and packaging of different kinds of
products in a dairy farm); participating in an exercise
involving body and mind (planning a role-play around
a theme and presenting that); or going through the
mental process of reflecting on something the child
has experienced (e.g., dialogue on gender-differentiated
practices in the family and society, or participating in a
mental game of numbers). Lived experiences, either in
the form of exercises that help to relate to life outside
the school or in terms of created experiences in the
school, have value at all stages of education; only the
nature, kind, and complexity of the experiences that
the school wants to plan for children need to change

blackboard is, or as the process of rote-memorization

is. The repetitive acts of copying and rote-memorization

over the years.

Active Engagement of Learners is Important for Construction

experience as well as level of abstractions would vary.

Language is the key to organizing experiences and hence

of Knowledge
In order to construct their own knowledge, learners

a proper coordination between the kind of experience

and the level of language developed would be

need to be actively engaged. Active engagement refers

to engagement of body and mind. A number of

important in early years of schooling.

Learners Age

physical activities involve engagement of the mind, but

some physical activities, especially if those do not require

Learners age and cognitive levels are important aspects

that influence the choice of methods and processes.

any simultaneous mental application, could also be as

un-engaging and mechanical (therefore, mentally

The same topic can be taught at several levels through

varied processes having different levels of complexities

passive) as copying something from the notebook or

and experiences.

do not lead to conceptual understanding and analytical

capacities. Playing sports is a good example of
simultaneous physical and mental engagement, which
involves anticipation, reflection, response, and
Learners can be actively engaged only when they
are motivated to learn. The very choice of work needs
to be such that it encourages learners to participate and
apply themselves. Active engagement involves enquiry,
exploration, questioning, debate, application, and
reflection leading to theory building and creation of
ideas/positions. This implies that it would be important
to create opportunities for questioning, enquiry, debate,
reflection, and arriving at concepts or creating new ideas.
An element of challenge is critical for the process of
active engagement and learning various concepts, skills,
and positions through the process. What is challenging
for a particular age group may become easy and
uninteresting for another age group, and may be remote
and un-interesting for still another stage. Therefore,
challenge has to be understood in the context of
capabilities of children at that stage. Creating or drawing
upon experience helps in arriving at abstract conceptions
for all age groups of children but the nature of

Individual Childs Specificity
Every individual is unique and therefore the way he/

necessity of, inter-dependence and cooperation. The

experiences of self-learning could help in developing

she constructs his/her own knowledge is also unique

to some extent. Some children might find a particular

capability for independent action.

Similarly, there could be several ways of enquiry

kind of process challenging and enjoyable while others

might not enjoy it as much, and the level of their

and exploration. If classroom questioning and dialogue

could be suitable for something, collecting information

engagement could vary. Although it is difficult to

respond to each childs preferences in everything a

through observation followed by processing, analysis,

and theory building would be more appropriate for

teacher does, it would help to have a broad

understanding of the patterns of their thinking and

something else. A place for work with hands would

also be important in many cases. Similarly, it is also

response processes. If the teacher remains flexible and

involves children in planning her class work, individual

important for learners to be familiar with different

forms of expressions, verbal and non-verbal, as well

unique abilities of children will bring tremendous

richness to classroom processes.

as ideas, and therefore teachers need to create space

for opportunities that allow these to happen. It could

The specificity of a child could also be understood

in terms of certain other specific requirements. For

help to include certain theme-based activities to create

opportunities for application of various skills,

instance, children with minor hearing or speech

limitations would require special attention and some

information, and knowledge to understand different

aspects of a topic/concept leading to an understanding

special devices from the teachers side. The specificity

could be in terms of personality. What would help is a

and appreciation of the connectedness.

The established principle of from known to

realisation that the needs of individuals could vary, and

sensitivity towards that is very important in learning. It

unknown is helpful but needs to be interpreted from

the learners perspective. At times, the adults

also implies that teachers need to address diverse needs

in the same classroom, and should be prepared for

perspective of known is different from a child or

learners perspective of known. In this context, it

Variety of Situations and Multiplicity of Methods Important

would be important to understand that the process of

learning is not linear and hence the progression also

for Creating Diverse Experiences

Different kinds of situations provide different kinds

needs to be non-linear. The relationship between the

known and the unknown or between the local and the

of learning experiences to students. Exposure to a

variety of learning situations such as self-work, small

global is not linear; it is rather complex and web-like in

texture. Therefore, a simplistic interpretation can be

group work, and whole class (or large group) work helps
in widening the experiential base. It also helps in

misleading. The definition of known changes with

place, area, age, and needs to be treated accordingly.

developing diverse perspectives. Therefore, it becomes

important to have opportunities for self-learning, peer

Not only the nature of subject or knowledge area

and age of the learners but also a number of other

learning, and learning through interacting with teachers.

The experience of working in diverse situations also

objective criteria, including location of the school (rural,

urban, remote, and so on) the environment (close to

helps in developing the skills for, and realizing the

forest, close to water sources, and so on), and the

neighbourhood (mixed social group, exclusive caste
group, economic and livelihood bases, and so on)
determine the particular choice and the combination
of the methods. For instance, rural schools could be
more resourceful because of their proximity to a variety
of flora and fauna to create certain real-life experiences
for understanding the environment. The worldview
of learners depends on the kind of place they live in
and are exposed to, and teachers would need to be
aware of that in order to be able to draw upon them.
Again, for instance, the issue of water scarcity is a daily
way of life in desert areas and has a different
significance as compared to water abundant areas.
Time management is a critical aspect of classroom
process. Considering that teachers operate under a form
of schooling with structures of grade and periods,
they also need to decide about the issue of time
allocation. The school system largely follows a rigid
system of division of periods usually of about
3050 minutes duration. The rationale of such decision
is not clear as different kinds of activities have different
kinds of time requirements depending on their nature
and purpose. While certain activities or processes can
be easily divided without harming the process of
reflection and learning, certain others might require a
continuous process. The important factors determining
the choice should be the facilitation of the desired
learning process and the ability of teachers to manage
it in the desired manner. Childrens attention span
depends on the nature of the process and how it is
being managed.
Also important is the issue of classroom organization.
Although grade-wise organization is the usual practice,
the potential for organizing groups of children of different
age and level for certain activities could also be considered.
A diverse mix of learners with varied learning experiences
and levels helps in enabling a process of peer learning,
which is not possible in a homogenous group.

The Implications of Aims for Classrooms Practices

The various aims of education articulated earlier have
implications for choices being made for classroom
practices. The entire organization of the classroom and
learning experiences needs to be such that they promote
the same ethos, values, and principles. For instance,
the aims of promoting equity, democracy, freedom, and
plurality through education have to be reflected in all
aspects of pedagogy including the method, the teacher
student relationship, and the kind and nature of learning
experiences. Learners need to experience what equity
entails, what democracy is, how it functions, and what
it means to respect plurality in their classrooms. For
instance, to provide a simple example, it would be
difficult to promote equity and democracy through a
classroom where teachers do not allow children to ask
questions, where the teacher does not make extra effort
to make a relatively silent child speak and participate,
and where varying opinions are not encouraged to be
voiced and debated, and so on. In other words,
democracy or equality is not taught only by covering
these as knowledge areas but have to be made part of
the regular classroom process. The same principle
would apply to other areas also. Certain specific
activities could be chosen to break the existing
stereotypes in the society, e.g., encouraging girls to play
football or do cycling in those parts where such activities
are not common at all. A conscious effort for preparing
children for action in real life would also be valuable.
The Socio-economic Context and Identity of the Learner
The socio-economic context of the learner has
significance for classroom practices. For instance, the
economic background of the learners has implications
for their health, nutrition level, and also their physical
appearance. This could affect their concentration,
energy level, and image based on their physical
appearance, and all this has implications for their level

of engagement and sense of belonging to the class.
The teacher should be responsible for making the learner

parents in work, high incidence of illness of self or

others at home, and so on. In their early years of

feel comfortable and acceptable in the class, which is

one of the first requirements for learning to happen.

schooling, home language could be different from the

main language of instruction and has implications for

Similarly, religion or caste forms part of the identity

and self-image of most, including young children. The

the teachinglearning approach.

Diverse cultural practices should also be looked at

sex of a child too is part of the identity. Social as well

as gender relations have power connotations and

as resources. An understanding of these practices would

help teachers not only in understanding how to relate

therefore implications for the learners self-image,

expectations from self, peer relations and also the

to the learners perspective of the social and physical

world around them, but also in building diverse

teacherchild relations. The teacher needs to be aware

of these and the impact that these factors have on the

perspectives and in developing a respect for plurality.

An Enabling TeacherChild Relationship

childs relations and learning, and have devices that

would help facilitate a classroom where each child

Even if it means reiterating the obvious, it is important

to highlight the criticality of an enabling teacherchild

belongs and feels interested in learning.

What is required is an understanding of these issues

relationship in the process of schooling and learning.

The process of learning requires an uninhibited

and practices, and sensitivity in dealing with the various

needs of learners. For instance, if girls are usually not

participation and engagement of learners in a process

that is largely guided and facilitated by teachers.

forthcoming in taking initiatives on their own, it

becomes important for teachers to create more

Teachers expectations from students has proved to be

an important factor in determining their motivation to

opportunities for them to speak and express

themselves. Similarly, if a dalit child in an upper-caste

learn, and consequently the pace and level of learning.

However, the conception of a student being bright

concentrated classroom feels marginalised, teachers

need to give greater attention to him/her. In certain

or weak has a direct association with the learners

motivation, and affects his/her interest level. These

circumstances, the issues of gender or caste or any other

aspect relating to identity or society can be discussed

notions also often have caste and gender connotations.

Teachers need to realize that each individual has the

directly, and sensitively, to initiate a process of

introspection and reflection.

potential to learn and they need to understand how to

translate this potential into reality. Therefore, it is

Considering that many of our schools are now

getting a good number of students who are first-

important for teachers to develop an affectionate and

equal kind of relationship with students, irrespective

generation school students and therefore do not come

from a background where the culture of formal

of their background and specificities.

The Role of and Space for Parents and Community

schooling exists, it would be important to understand

its implications for the pedagogy. Teachers need to be

While school is a structured space for guided learning,

the process of constructing knowledge is a continuous

sensitive to the fact that such children are more

vulnerable and, therefore, could be irregular or less-

one, which goes on even outside the school. Providing

some space to community in the classroom processes

attentive for a variety of reasons: the need to help

as part of the curricular plan could help in developing

greater coordination and mutual appreciation. Parents
or community members could be seen as resource

solution to all these problems. It is sought to collect all

the knowledge that a child is supposed acquire at a

persons for exposure to certain ideas and concepts

and could be requested to share some of their

given stage or class and is planned so that the child

never needs to look beyond it. Thus teaching the

experiences with students. For instance, a potter could

share his/her skill, machines, and important aspects of

textbook becomes the whole of education.

As a result of this undue importance given to the

his/her work, while a banker could share his/her

knowledge about the process of banking as well as

textbook, it has acquired an aura of supremacy and a

standard format. It has to be completed from cover

the essential features of banking systems in a particular

context. The choice would depend on particular

to cover in a strict sequence, has developed a language

of its own that is difficult to comprehend, and is laden

curricular plan and the kind of expertise that is available

and accessible. What is needed is active involvement

with dense concepts. (The recent attempts in certain

states to tackle this problem have led to writing rather

of parents in the process of learning. The relationship

would help in sharing the pedagogy and the content

vacuous textbooks with very little conceptual content

to understand.) It has become a symbol of authority

and thereby in maintaining the continuity.

The choice of desirable methods and practices

difficult to ignore or disobey.

Moving from Textbook to Teachinglearning Material

depends to a large extent on the teacherstudent ratio.

The national and international experiences have clearly

In this paper, we have been talking of a curriculum

framework that enables schools and teacher to make

shown that a ratio higher than 1:30 is not desirable at

any stage of school education. The Kothari

choices and move towards greater autonomy. Such a

movement towards school autonomy is seen in a

Commission report had also recommended this ratio

way back in 1968. The need for adequate and

positive light by all major policy and curriculum

documents. It has also been well recognised that the

appropriate teacher training coupled with continuous

support and facilitation would also be critical for

choices at the level of school and teacher could be

made possible only within an accepted framework of

creating an enabling environment and generating new


basic principles. We have talked about these principles

in connection with the general aims of education

4.2.5 Teaching-learning Material and Textbooks

Textbook-dominated Classroom Practices
The present day classroom practices are, in almost all
schools of the country, totally dominated by textbooks.
All premises of flexibility of the curriculum and syllabus
and freedom of the teacher are completely forgotten
by the time an educational plan reaches the classroom.
The teacher is seen as either incompetent or unwilling
or both, the school is seen as devoid of all learning
material, and the environment is seen as of no use in
the childs learning. The textbook emerges as the single

(nationally accepted), stage-specific objectives (accepted

state and district level in agreement with the national
level standards for the final stage of school education),
and selection of content (at district and school level, in
guidance of, perhaps, a state-level syllabus). When we
come to decisions regarding methods of teaching, pace
of learning, material, and concrete examples to be used,
we reach the level of school and the classroom. These
are concrete decisions that can be made only for specific
classrooms and children, as the actual learning happens
only in the childs mind and depends totally on what

has been learnt earlier. Therefore, the reinterpretation
of the content, methods, and materials are completely
within the sphere of practical decisions to be made by
the teacher.
Clearly, in the light of this argument, what is needed
is not a single textbook but a package of teaching
learning material that could be used to engage the child
in active learning. At an early stage, it may contain
concrete objects that help formation of concepts (i.e.,
shapes, counting objects, etc.), equipment to help
observation, and charts and cards to illustrate, play with,
and so on. At a later stage of school education, it could
mean a variety of books on the relevant issues. The
textbook as part of this package becomes one tool to
engage the child in learning. The teacher in classroom
practices can use a variety of activities, concrete learning
material, as well as textbooks.
What is to be learnt is planned as per the objectives
and the syllabus; what is to be evaluated is decided on
the basis of stage-specific objectives. There have been
several successful initiatives both in state-run school
systems and the NGOs where a package of teaching
learning materials is used and the textbook is either not
used at all or used only as one of the materials available.
Nalli-kali in Karnataka government schools, Mirambika
as one experimental school in a city like Delhi, Schools
run by the two NGOs, Digantar and Bodh in Rajasthan,
and a few experimental schools supported by CAREIndia in Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh are some
such examples.
The textbook itself, as part of such a package, will
have to change both in form and function. A textbook
may not necessarily cover the entire syllabus of one
class/stage and it may not necessarily be for the whole
year. Any good textbook should lead the child to interact
with the environment, peers, other people, etc. rather
than be self-contained. It should function as a guide to
construct understanding through active engagement with

text, ideas, things, environment, and people rather than

transferring knowledge as a finished product.
Context and the Teaching Learning Material
A package of teachinglearning material that relates
with the child cannot be developed only with the childs
context in mind. No single package, however well and
professionally designed, can address all the contextual
situations in a country as large as India. Therefore, a
large number of packages should be developed at state
and district levels with adequate provision for cluster
and school-level modifications and supplementary
In addition to squarely contextualising the
educational processes, the production of TLM package
at local levels will also increase avenues for teacher
participation at a hitherto unprecedented large scale.
This should significantly enhance the quality of locallevel educational discourse, and is likely to improve
upon the ownership of material and methods by the
Multiplicity of Teaching Learning Material
Further, there is no reason why each district or block
has to have only one TLM package. Availability of a
number of alternative TLM packages, all of approved
quality, would certainly increase the choice of the
teachers. Such packages could be developed and
published by private publishers. Each school or teacher
should be able to choose the package of her liking,
given that she is committed to achieve the required
learning levels and all available packages are of proven
quality. Freedom to choose methods and materials is
likely to enhance the teachers self-image and
Process of Development of Teaching Learning Materials Including
State-run institutions alone cannot develop a large
umber of TLM packages and involvement of private
publishers would become inevitable. If a large number

of TLM packages are to be made available all over
the country involving both private and state bodies, it

education to a kind of gigantic and crazy quiz

would be important to develop clearly outlined

mechanisms of quality control including the

via the IAS and the second-rankers a ticket to purgatory

establishment of some standards for the very process

of development. The government institutions like

ranks, can walkbut neither to heaven nor to purgatory.

programme, where the winners get a free ticket to heaven

via the IITs and top executive posts; the others, without
David Horsburgh

DIETs should lead the way in developing and

establishing such standards. For example, trialling of

The above quote brings out the havoc that the

present system of evaluation creates. The learners are

textbooks and other TLM in a certain number of

schools and for a certain time period can be made

thought of, it could be argued, as being clean slates.

The teacher imparts knowledge to pupils, leading them

mandatory for any TLM package that is to be sold in

the open market or implemented in a large number of

from darkness to light. Many of the trained teachers

would have been familiar with the views of various

schools. Another such condition could be the

participation of practicing teachers in the development

education Commissions as a part of their training in

Teacher College, but need frequent reminders of the

process. The DIETs and other government agencies

can take lead in fine-tuning and establishing such norms.

aims and purpose of education. Most of the teachers

live in some fear of inspectorial visits and examination

4.2.6 Evaluation
Assessment and Evaluation of the Learner in the School

performance should their pupils fail to reproduce the

correct facts on being examined. Records of inspectors

Evaluation, every bit of itthe research, the

implementation, the training of evaluators, the
evaluation manuals and workshops, the huge buildings
full of people devoted to inventing new and even more
foul evaluation techniquesin other words, the whole
antiquated evaluation process, should as speedily as
possible be hurled lock, stock and barrel out of the
windows of our educational system in just the same
way as the chamber pots were emptied in eighteenth
century London, the period and the contents are
identical. Evaluation has been one of the most
important forces in the gradual degeneration of all
school education over the last thirty years: evaluation
with its craze for more and more objectivity in marking,
with its endless desire to ensure that children fill their
tender minds with numerous snippets of supremely

visits to schools reveal that drill and repetition

comprised the main teaching techniques. The repetition
of factual content completely dominates other
significant learning elements such as demonstrating,
observation, articulation, reflection, sharing, and analysis.
The fact that this was not considered desirable was
brought out clearly in the Yash Pal Committee Report.
The report Learning Without Burden notes that the
public examinations at the end of classes X and XII
should be reviewed with a view to ensure replacement
of the prevailing text-based and quiz-type questioning
by concept-based questioning. This single reform, it
states, is sufficient to improve the quality of learning
and save children from the tyranny of rote
To this situation is added the view of the ruling

is the sun on November 19th? Who was Hare and

classes and the planners, as is seen in the

recommendations of the Viswa Bharati Amendment

what do you know about his apparatus?) has reduced

Bill document, which in fact follows the suggestions

useless information (Who built the Suez Canal? Where

of the World Bank that has laid down that for the
developing countries, specifically the low-income

of students learning, not just the quality of students

achievement, in different domains of learning for the

countries including India, the development of upper

levels of formal education will be selective and carefully

purpose of improving performance and not making

a variety of decisions on the levels of learning.

planned, taking into account the limited absorptive

capacity of the modern sector for labour, and the needs

The purpose of assessment is necessarily to improve

the teachinglearning process and materials, and be able

of both the public and private sectors for managerial

and technical skills to meet the needs of increasingly

to review the objectives that have been identified for

different stages of school education. Also, assessment

sophisticated economies will have priority.7

It is necessary to do some soul-searching as to why

is meant to gauge the degree to which objectives are

achieved and capabilities of the learners are developed,

there are concerns about falling standards and high

failure rates among our school going children. Is it not

and not just to know how many snippets of facts have

been memorised. A tailor-made unifor m test

a reflection of the failings of the system of curriculum,

syllabus, textbooks, and the teachinglearning

measuring and assessing the memory and even

understanding of the mind of the learner is obsolete

approaches we now follow? It is to address these

concerns that the approach is further discussed.

and outdated. In the modern times, where creativity,

innovativeness, and the development of the entire

The Purpose of Assessment

Evaluation is a relative term. In education, it is always

personality are the hallmarks, we need to redefine and

search for new ways of evaluation and feedback.

associated with objectives and implementation. By itself,

it is a process that determines the course of action and

Lastly, the need for assessment is to give a meaningful

report for interschool transfer of the learner, certificate

recommends changes for the better of the individual,

society, nation, and mankind. If we consider education

of completion of a course, and periodic reports to the

guardians, employers, and community about the quality

as preparation for a meaningful life, the process of

evaluation followed now, which measures and assesses

and level of the learners progress. It is not a means to

encourage competition, and if one is looking for quality

a very limited range of faculties of mind, is highly

inadequate and fails to give a true picture of an

attainment then segregating children and injecting a sense

of inferiority into them is not the way.

individuals abilities or progress towards aims of


The Assessment of the Learner

In view of generating a meaningful report on quality

The first consideration is that there is no need to

have a similarity in the evaluation procedures whether

and level of individual learners progress, it is necessary

to assess each childs learning. In addition to the learners

in university or primary schools. The evaluation has to

be formulated and stated in advance by the teacher

achievement levels, this should also encompass her

attitude, interest, and ability to learn independently. To

and should include all techniques of assessment. Next

is that the assessment is a process of collecting,

understand all this, one, of course, has to change the

nature of classroom evaluation so that it is based on

analysing, and interpreting evidence to judge the extent

the very experiences that the learner goes through during

Education Sector Policy Paper April 1980, p.87.

learning. The very process of learning is assessed, and
decisions are made on the quality and nature of each
learner without comparison, classification, or
categorization into slow and fast learners. Competency
attained or not attained type of judgments or giving
only marks or grades based on single observations are
not desirable. Observation, especially self-observation,
is a powerful tool where a teacher learns a lot about
others. Maintaining a daily diary based on observation
helps in continuous and comprehensive evaluation. An
extraction from the diary of a teacher for a week
mentions, Kiran enjoyed his work. He took an instant liking
to the books that were informative and brief. He says that he
likes simple and clear language. In noting down facts, he goes for
short answers. He says that it helps him understand things easily.
He favours a practical approach.
Similarly, methods of keeping records of the childs
work, a systematic collection of the ways the learning
has improved and grown, as seen in the writing, material
produced, and ideas articulated should be included in
a statement reporting about the child along with the
marks if that is felt to be necessary.
The Use and Nature of Examinations
In our view, the purpose of examination must be an
evaluation of well-defined and sensible achievement
levels at all stages, and not the test of meaningless
transient memory.8 Revamping the examination method
ultimately is the first and most important step of any
meaningful educational change. It needs to be clearly
realized that examination determines what becomes
of any content and method in practical terms. As long
as it stresses on simple recall and the exact repetition
of the content as stated in the textbook, all innovations
will get frustrated by it.
For a subject based on the objectives outlined at
the outset, the examination method must mean an

evaluation of not just the achievement levels in the skills

and abilities mentioned, but the processes of thinking
that the learner uses and whether she knows where the
information could be found, how it could be used,
and also how to analyse/evaluate and generate
information. The best way to do this is the open-book
type examination, which emphasises the application of
the childs learning competencies related to thinking and
experimenting, involves statistical methods, and is
conducted by the teachers themselves. Such an effort
has been successfully demonstrated by various small
initiatives including the Hoshangabad Science Teaching
Project (HSTP). But change in the examination methods
is not an easy task, not because of any inherent
problems of devising alternate methods, but because
of its political implications. It is a great wonder that
examination reforms were allowed by the Madhya
Pradesh government for the HSTP. The experience in
Bombay Municipal schools and the Khiroda
experiment shows that both these innovative efforts
ultimately floundered because the authorities did not
allow examination reforms.
Since examinations are supposed to provide the
interface, either with higher education or employment,
any change at each stage is linked to what happens at
the next stage. As such, a change in the examination
method can be effected only if the total educational
process is considered as a wholethe IIT entrance
examination, the medical entrance examinations, and
the PET and PMT examinations of the states are,
perhaps, a great stumbling block for any examination
reform. A wilful decision by the government to effect
a total change in examination is the first and most
important step for concerned people to get together
to suggest various models for trial, feedback, and final
acceptance. It will be necessary to change such entrance

8 Teaching of Science Report and Recommendations of the National Seminar on Science Teaching Held at Bhopal, Nov. 15-17, 1985 ibid.

examinations in order to make sensible changes in
school-level examination. And until that is done, and a

Strive for excellence in all aspects of learning,

especially in the preparation of materials,

will to do so exists, only cosmetic educational changes

shall come through, no matter how many new policies

correction of work, monitoring students

progress, and responding to enquiries by the

of education are formulated.

Comprehensive Continuous Assessmentits Processes and

The role of the assessment is to gauge the

The present attempts at Continuous Comprehensive

progress that the learner and teacher have made

towards achieving the aims that have been set

evaluation, in which the percentage of marks is based

on tests, project work, and assignments, are left to the

and appraising how this could be done better.

Opportunity for revision and improvement of

teacher. The marks given are added to the year-end

examination or the external examination held by the

performance should constantly be available

without exams and evaluation being used as a

Board at the end of classes 5, 8, 10, and 12. Based on

these, at the end of 10 and 12 years, the learner is

threat to study. Deduction of marks cannot be

an alternative to motivating learners.

given certification of completion of studies. In order

to make the model of continuous comprehensive

The learning experience itself must be evaluated

and not merely its outcomes. Learners are happy

evaluation effective, there has to be a collective

understanding among all concernedchild, teacher,

to comment on the totality of their experience,

and this information can be used to modify

parent, institutions of higher education and employer

about what is being evaluated.

the learning system as a whole. The learner must

be able to assess her learning experiences both

Some suggestions to improve upon the system:

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